Thy Kingdom Come!
47 Day Road Trip
Destination: Jesus Christ
For each day of the Lenten season
Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday
Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and
how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2705
What is Prayer? The Saints Speak
For me, prayer is…
BEING DRAWN BY A THIRST, A YEARNING FOR LOVE
“A man is drawn to Christ when he delights in truth, when he delights in
righteousness, when he delights in eternal life, all of which Christ is… Give me a
man who loves, and he will feel what I say. Give me a man who yearns, a man who
hungers, a man who travels in this wilderness, and thirsts and sighs for the
fountain of his eternal fatherland; give me such a man, and he will know what I
am talking about. But if I speak to a cold man he will not know what I am saying.”
St. Augustine of Hippo
A CRY FROM THE HEART
“For me, prayer is an uplifting of the heart, a simple glance directed towards
heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and of love in the midst of trial as well as joy, it is
something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.”
St. Therese of Lisieux
SURRENDERING AND LISTENING
“My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love him. Prayer is
not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and
listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.”
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
LOVING AND BEING LOVED
“What could the prayer of the Church be, if not great lovers giving themselves to
God who is love? The unbounded loving surrender to God and God’s return gift, full
and enduring union, this is the highest elevation of the heart attainable, the
highest level of prayer.”
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith
TO BE ALONE WITH MY FRIEND WHO LOVES ME
“Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between
friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves
St. Teresa of Avila
“To pray is to look at Jesus, loving Him.”
Charles de Foucauld
“I look at him and he looks at me.”
Words of a simple peasant to the Curé of Ars
A perfect friend is a great gift. But how can you know a friend if you never talk to him?
Prayer is your time alone with the Friend who loves you and understands you more deeply
than anyone else. Go to Jesus to pour out your heart, and then listen deep inside. He will speak
and respond; he has a heart too. In this way, prayer answers the quest and request of your
heart, which deep down is always seeking to love and be loved.
Prayer is the engine of your growing capacity to give love. After original sin, you may find
your capacity to love sometimes handicapped by insecurity, immaturity, impatience,
unforgiveness, selfishness, or other personal difficulties. It doesn’t have to be this way. Christ
can heal and expand your heart, under one condition: that first you drink deeply of his love for
Prayer is a way to find a path of meaningfulness in the midst of a world that is so often
indifferent to the deep questions of life. There are stable answers and secure certainties that a
person can live by. Not everything is relative. In prayer, Jesus gives you a clearer sense of
direction regarding your identity and mission in life. And he sets you on your path.
During this Lent, that path is Christ. He is the way and the destination, and his Lenten invitation
is: “Come, follow me”. How?
“Whoever loves me will keep my word” (Jn. 14:23). We follow him by obeying his will, which is
expressed through his word and his example.
But we cannot follow Christ if we do not love him. And we cannot love him if we do not realize
how much he loves us first. And we cannot know how much he loves us if we do not contemplate
Contemplation of Christ is the engine of love, love generates holiness, holiness brings God into
the world, and God changes, purifies, and perfects everything he touches, starting with us.
Everything begins with contemplation. Everything begins with prayer.
You are one soul in a world of six billion people. But for Christ, your one soul is a whole
universe. One soul who gets to know and love and follow him is his precious pearl, his treasure
buried in the field of the world. A soul who loves lifts up everyone around her. She makes her
life a gift one day at a time, a gift given back to the perfect Friend.
Have you ever wanted to give Christ a gift? The best gift you can give him for Easter is these 47
days that stretch before you like an open road. Fill those 47 days with prayer and love, and you
will lift up the world.
This year’s Lent is here now and will never come again. Take the grace of the present moment
and redeem it for eternity.
47 days of a Lenten journey: it starts on Ash Wednesday and ends in eternity. Destination:
Anyone who wishes to give love
must also receive love as a gift.
Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living
water flow. Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the
original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God.
Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est
God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness
of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of
love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #221
Day 1: Ash Wednesday
Sin and Sincerity
Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. (Psalm 51)
Fruit: to acknowledge my sins before God with truthfulness and humility
Petition: Jesus, give me the grace to recognize my sins and confess them to you with complete
trust in your mercy.
Composition of place: at the hour of my death, looking back
When we read the Psalms, especially the Psalm for Ash Wednesday’s liturgy, we hear the voice
of an utterly honest man: David. We should never think that the Bible is an unreachable, gold-
plated special edition written entirely by saints. Of course, it’s true that the primary author of
Sacred Scripture is the Holy Spirit. But it’s also true that the secondary authors were men, and
more often than not, these men were sinners.
Think of St. Paul. Here is a man with a fiery, passionate heart… and a past. He needed a bigtime
conversion. Think of St. Peter, who promised Christ, “Even if all the others fall away, I will never
fall away” and then caved in under a servant girl’s questioning. How that gaze of Christ must
have pierced him to the core! And think of David, who slept with another man’s wife, and then
arranged the death of Uriah on the front lines when he realized Bathsheba was pregnant. When
the truth was brought home to him by the prophet Nathan, David wrote Psalm 51, the Miserere.
It is an utterly honest confession of his guilt.
Such honesty is refreshing, especially in our times, when some people seem allergic to the “s”
word. Why dodge the issue? Call a spade a spade! Sin is not a wound that just “happened to me”
so that I need healing. Sin is something that I did wrong, that I am responsible for, and for which
I must ask God’s forgiveness. And it is part of my dignity as a human person that I can assume
responsibility for my actions, good or evil. I am not a victim of life. I can come to God with the
truth in my hands and ask for forgiveness. I can convert and come home.
David the Psalmist is clear in his words. He is driven by a need to be sincere and honest before
God. Sincerity is a hallmark of love; ambiguity reveals a divided heart. It is with great dignity in
his humility that David confesses his sin: “For I acknowledge my offense; and my sin is before
me always: Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” These are the
words of a man who is not afraid to face the truth and call things by their proper names. These
are the words of a man with courage. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why God described him
as “a man after my own heart”.
Jesus loves honesty, especially an unguarded honesty about our weaknesses, sins, and failings.
He loves our humble cry for help. Remember that the confession of the Publican was more
pleasing to God than the prayer of the perfect Pharisee. Why?
Perhaps Christ loves honesty because he can’t love us when we have our masks on. It’s just that
we don’t let ourselves be loved. If we insist on showing him our perfections, number 1, he’s not
fooled because he knows human nature very well; and number 2, we are telling him in so many
words, “I don’t need you.”
Jesus wants to love us where we are at, in the actual poverty of our fallen nature. He wants us to
be holy with him, not without him. He wants us to rely totally on the strength of his arm, on his
help. If we strive to be good on our own, more often than not it’s just an exercise in self-
righteousness. Yes, we must become holy, but we need to grow from the heart of Christ, putting
him at the center. And putting him at the center requires this first step of confessing our sin
with total honesty, clarity, sincerity, and joy.
Joy? Yes, joy, because every confession is a homecoming. It is the parable of the prodigal son
who comes home, to the great joy of the Father.
We should never imagine that our sins are too much for God, or that he has some kind of a limit
to his forgiveness. Often, he allows us to fall so that he can have the privilege of lifting us up. He
can allow painful wounds so that we will experience him as our healer, him alone. He will allow
humiliating defects to remain in our hearts, lives, or relationships because these defects bring
us back to him again and again on our knees. And through our need for him, we experience a
love that is totally different from all human loves.
Human love is usually based on some kind of an admiration of another person’s qualities and
goodness. We are generally repulsed by selfish, proud, arrogant, vain, or sensual traits in a
person. And others are generally repulsed by these traits in us. Since this is our experience in
human love, we fear to let our defects be seen, because we fear to lose the love of the other.
God’s heart is different. He loves us in the deepest truth of our poverty, and he wants to
encounter us there. Part of the journey of Lent is the process of discovering this truth, not in
theory, but in personal prayer and in life. What is my poverty that can bring me to him?
God must allow so many wounds, so many hard moments, so that you feel weak and through this,
you are open to grace.
Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
The Gift of Faith
Blessed are You, O Lord, in all Your works, for though I am unworthy of any good, You continually
surround me with Your kindness, which is extended even to those who are ungrateful to You or
have turned away from You. Lord, please turn us back to You again so that we may become
grateful humble and devout; for You are our help, our salvation and the strength of our body and
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will buy a journal so that I can carry on a written “conversation” with Christ. I will
use this journal as a way to talk to him about my difficulties and the defects that humiliate me
Today I will go to Confession or make arrangements to receive the sacrament sometime
within the coming week.
Day 2: Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Passage for Thursday and Friday: Deuteronomy 30:19-20
I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your
descendants may live, by loving the Lord your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
Fruit: to choose life God’s way
Petition: Jesus, teach me to choose life your way. Teach me to choose you.
Composition of place: Imagine yourself as a two year old toddler learning to walk, with God
the Father standing behind you, holding up your hands and guiding your steps.
What Father would give his child a snake if he asked for an egg, or a stone if he asked for a piece
of bread? Love knows how to provide for his children.
But sometimes his children do not know how to provide for themselves. Sometimes it seems
that when we are left on our own to make decisions, we choose the worst possible things. When
Mom leaves and we have our run of the kitchen, we eat junk food and watch T.V. Tell me this
isn’t true. We choose the path of least resistance—which 99.9% of the time is not the path of
life. It’s much easier to slide into a life of vice than to climb into a life of virtue.
So we have freedom, but we also have passions, which are forces at work within us that drive us
toward things we perceive as goods. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, our passions are unruly,
sometimes misguided forces that often drive us toward what is not authentically good for us.
Anyone who has ever lost her temper or failed to keep a diet or fallen into gossiping knows that
sometimes we do not do what we wanted to do. Our best resolutions fall apart when our
passions take over.
This means that we have to defend our freedom from our passions. We have to strengthen and
educate our freedom, giving it the clarity of mind to see what is truly good and the willpower to
choose the good consistently, not just in fits and spurts. Easier said than done… which is why
we need Someone to help us.
Remember that Christ is there, not just as a spectator who watches you fall, but as a Friend who
is ready to help you. But sometimes we forget to ask. We assume that we’re supposed to make
good choices all on our own, as if we didn’t have a fallen nature. Let’s be realistic. We need all
the help we can get, and Christ is there just waiting to give it. For heaven’s sake, just ask him!
Every sincere prayer is repaid by an invisible outpouring of grace and help. We should never
imagine that some prayers go unanswered or that Christ is just taking voice mail messages and
letting them disappear into cyberspace. He hears and responds to everything.
Scripture itself tells us so: “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find.” If it seems that a
particular request goes unanswered, don’t be deceived. Persevere in asking; he wants you to
keep coming to him. It could also happen that he wants to bestow a bigger gift, and he needs
you to keep coming to him with your little requests.
Sometimes, Christ will use our difficulties as excuses that keep us coming back to him again and
again. Maybe he wants it to be hard for you right now because he wants you to experience him
as your Savior. He wants to meet you in prayer.
There was once a car mechanic who fell in love with a young woman at first sight, the moment
she walked into the shop. She had brought in her Chrysler for repairs on the headlights, so he
fixed the headlights, but then he “adjusted” a few things in the muffler of the car. Nothing
dangerous. Just noisy. Lo and behold, before long she brought the car in again because it kept
making clunking noises. Quite happily, he met her again, fixed the muffler, and then “adjusted”
the windshield wipers. She thought, “He’s so helpful!” But after the next rain storm, she had to
come in again to get the wipers fixed. While he was fixing the wipers, they started chatting, and
somewhere along the way a spark jumped from heart to heart. She asked him why her car had
started falling apart when she brought it in to be fixed. Was it Murphy’s Law? Fate? Just a junky
Chrysler? He looked at her and said, “It’s not your car that’s falling apart. It’s me. I can’t live
without you.” Only after they were married did he tell her how he had sabotaged her car.
Christ is sometimes like that car mechanic. He’ll always leave a thorn in our side so that he has
an excuse to draw us to his merciful heart. In that way, sometimes our passions and defects are
our best allies, because they bring us to Christ.
What are the passions in my life that most often make me fall? Am I willing to take up the battle
of fighting against what is lowest in me? Am I ready to go to Christ to ask for help?
The peace of Christ comes as a result of your choosing him.
Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
The Gift of Faith
In my next spiritual guidance, I will go over this topic of where I struggle most to use my
freedom well, and I will look for the concrete means that can help me to overcome myself.
Today I will talk to Christ in my heart (or out loud, if no one else is around) while I am
driving in my car or riding the bus.
Day 3: Friday after Ash Wednesday
There are so many different views of what a fulfilled life consists in. Some say health, wealth,
lots of friends, and no problems would be a nice start. The book of Deuteronomy gives another
perspective. Choose life… by loving the Lord your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
Look at the verbs: by loving, by heeding, by holding fast.
Love the Lord your God: this is life. Why? Because the human heart is made for love, with an
infinite thirst for an infinite love. How could you live on anything else? Living without love
would be a deep suffocation of the heart. The heart has its breathing, and the name of its breath
Our image of love, our experience of love is sometimes tarnished by our experience of defective
or dysfunctional human love. So many children grow up today without having a deep
experience of love within their families. They grow up starved for love, with a hunger so deep
that they can’t even feel it anymore. It becomes like a deep numbness, and maybe their
skepticism about truth is rooted in this experience of “I have not been loved. I am not lovable.”
Love is a need more vital than the needs of the body. We are not exempt from the same wounds.
It could happen that we lose our confidence in love because we have seen love disfigured and
misrepresented in the broken relationships we have known.
It is important to recall again and again that God is not like fallen human beings. Christ’s love
for you is constant, enduring, total, all-embracing. He notices every detail, every secret gesture,
every little effort to be close to him. If you even whisper his name, he hears it and responds. His
love is constantly on the watch, like a loving father who adores the tiny newborn baby asleep
on his chest.
Christ is a real person, and like any real person he has a real heart with a real desire to receive
love from his beloved. He listens, but he also speaks and wants to be heard. He holds us up, but
he also wants to be held. It has to be a mutual relationship. It has to be a giving and a receiving.
What is Christ telling you through your life right now? Is there a message he is sending through
a particular difficulty or trial? Maybe the problem you are struggling with right now is just his
way of saying, “Come to me, rely on me.”
Many times we can’t hear Christ’s voice simply because we don’t stop and make time to listen.
He is always there, but he has to compete with our iPod and our cell phone and our addiction to
constant noise. He is speaking, but we drown out the “still, small voice” with innumerable
distractions. We are children of our culture, and which tends to make us spiritually ADD.
Maybe a good sacrifice for Lent would be to give up all or at least some of the noise. Lenten
sacrifices cannot be just about candy and chocolate and sugar and soda. Of course, it’s not bad
to give up some junk food. It helps the body to be more healthy. But how much more important
it is to give up the spiritual junk food that invades and often corrupts the soul: TV, Internet
surfing, movies, music…
We are citizens of two worlds, but we can’t let the outer world dominate the inner world. Christ
needs his space to be able to speak, so that our spiritual life is really a life. And for that, he
needs us to make a choice for life: his life.
How blessed are those who know how good it is to love Jesus and to despise themselves for His
sake. Jesus wills to be loved alone above all other things and we must forsake all other loves but
The love of creatures deceives and fails, but Jesus' love is ever faithful and enduring. Those who
cling to creatures will fall with them; but those who always cling to Jesus will stand firm forever.
Love Him and keep Him for your friend; for when all others forsake you, He will not leave you nor
let you perish in the end.
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
I will check and see what my Lenten sacrifices are, and make sure to add on a more spiritual
resolution that will help me to hear Christ’s voice.
I will go visit a perpetual adoration chapel and do a half-hour of adoration in complete
silence before God, just to be with the One I love.
Day 4: Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Passage: Isaiah 58: 6-8
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the
yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them and not turning
your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall
quickly be healed.
Fruit: to fast God’s way
Petition: Jesus, teach me to fast your way. Teach me to love.
Composition of place: Imagine Jesus speaking these words to you personally. He is looking at
you, not at generic “humanity”. When his eyes meet yours, you cannot stay the same.
In Isaiah 58, God tells the Israelites that he wants their fasting to be more spiritual than
physical, because he has seen how their fasting “ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with
wicked claw”. This is a lesson for us, too.
It is relatively easy to subdue the body. We can push ourselves in sports, do crazy things like
jump into frozen lakes, and stay up all night to work on a paper for school. But it is not so easy
to subdue the soul to God through charity. Thoughts run swiftly through our heads, judgments
appear like annoying pop-ups, critical words slip out of our mouths, and our actions sometimes
show our hostility or indifference to others. The spiritual fasting of charity is difficult, but it is
the sacrifice that really interests God.
Spiritual fasting is important because what matters most is not our body, but our soul. The
body is part of us, of course, and we express a lot of our personality through our face, gestures,
and actions. But we are not reducible to our body. There is an interior self called the soul, and
this soul is the innermost core of who we are; it is our deepest identity and personality.
Our soul is that inward part of us that knows, thinks, ponders, and chooses. It is not just the
mind; it also includes the will, the heart, and for those in the state of grace, the presence of the
Holy Trinity dwelling within it as in an interior temple. It is in the soul that the voice of God
speaks and exerts his gentle influence, speaking through the conscience.
The soul is impossible to locate or quantify or measure; you will never be able to put it in a test
tube or under a microscope. But it is no less real than an amoeba or a constellation, and it is
much more noble. Blaise Pascal said, “By a single thought, man outstrips the universe,” meaning
that the spiritual nature of man lifts him up above the entire material world. This means that a
single human being—let’s say, a mentally retarded homeless man on the streets of Chicago—
has more value than 50 million supernovas and a thousand diamonds in an African diamond
mine. Why? Because he has a soul, and the value of a soul cannot be measured. He is made for
eternity, while supernovas, diamonds, and amoebae will all pass away with time.
The same applies to you. You are not just the sum of your talents, qualities, defects, and
appearance. You are a soul, and to God you have infinite value. You are a person with a free will,
with the capacity to know him and love him, and you are not made just for this earth. You are
made for heaven, and that’s why God made you. He wanted you to have life, not just an earthly
life burdened with difficulties and struggles, but a heavenly life filled with unending joy that no
one will ever be able to take away from you, because Christ gave it to you, and there is no
snatching out of his hand.
So Christ is very interested in your precious soul and he wants your fasting to have a spiritual
dimension, not only a physical one. How can you fast in the best possible way?
Imitate Christ. Imitate his charity, which reaches out not only to the body, but also to the soul. It
is a much greater act of charity to heal a soul than to heal a body, although physical healings are
also a great good.
Think of Jesus in the moment when he cures the paralytic man who was lowered through a
ceiling by his friends. Before he cures the body, he looks at the man lying on his mat and says,
“My son, your sins are forgiven you.” The Pharisees start getting edgy, grumbling into their
beards, “Only God can forgive sins. Who does this guy think he is?” Jesus just looks at them
calmly and says, “Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven you’ or ‘Rise, take up your mat
and walk’?” Then he turns to the man and heals him of his paralysis: “Rise, take up your mat
and walk”. The man gets up and scampers away, leaping for joy, amazed that he can move again.
And Jesus turns his calm, even gaze to the Pharisees, who suddenly develop a great interest in
studying their toenails.
Jesus’ charity was not just a physical “setting free” and “sharing your bread”. That was part of
his mission, but not all of it, and certainly not the deepest part of it. His essential mission was to
set their souls free from sin, to share the bread of the Eucharist, to bring the spiritually
homeless to the great family of the Church. And that’s our mission too.
How am I fulfilling this great mandate of the Church to go out and tell others about Christ? Do I
ever talk about my faith or am I afraid of what others will think of me? Do I know how to share
my faith to others with courage, humility, and respect—not imposing it but proposing it as a
gift? Do I err to one of two extremes: being arrogant versus being ashamed? Do I know how to
combine in my heart the certainty of possessing the source of truth—Christ—with the
openness of one who knows that she still has much to learn from the experience of others? Do I
have confidence in the truth?1
Most of the time, what stops us from healing souls and bringing them to God is an unjustified
(though understandable, given our culture) fear of being rejected and labeled. True fasting
would imply overcoming this fear with prayer and prudent action. We should never be afraid to
Souls are hungry for God, and the greatest gift we can offer them is not a piece of bread, but the
peace of Christ.
If the truth comes from God, then there is no need to be afraid in the face of arguments drawn from today’s
scientific mentality. Science cannot destroy our faith, because God is the author of everything, including the
realities that science investigates, and God cannot contradict himself. If there are apparent conflicts between
the discoveries of science and the doctrines of the Church, then we have one of several options: either it’s bad
science, which presents hypotheses as if they were truths; or it is a misunderstood doctrine; or it is a
miscommunication (such as a poor translation). God is the author of all truth and he cannot contradict himself.
It is we who grasp it imperfectly.
Once in a while we should ask ourselves several questions in order to guide our actions. We should
ask questions like: Do I know the poor? Do I know, in the first place, the poor in my family, in my
home, those who are closest to me—people who are poor, but not because they lack bread? There
are other types of poverty just as painful because they are more intrinsic. Perhaps what my
husband or wife lacks, what my children lack, what my parents lack, is not clothes or food. Perhaps
they lack love, because I do not give it to them!
In Her Own Words
Today I will do something (start up a discussion group, send an e-mail, strike up a
conversation) to get others thinking about Christ.
Today I will ask around to see if there is an apostolate I can get involved in so that this Lent
I can do something to share my faith with others.
Temptation and Trouble
First Week of Lent
Passage for the week: Luke 4: 1-11
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert
for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were
over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to
become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then he took
him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I
shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it
to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is
written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him alone shall you serve.’” Then he led him to
Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of
God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’ and ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a
stone.’” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Fruit for the week: to build my life on truth
Petition for the week: Jesus, help me to recognize and resist temptation in my life.
Composition of place: Look at Jesus in the desert after 40 days of fasting from food and water.
Jesus’ humanity is at its weakest point: no food, no shelter in the burning days and freezing
nights of the desert, no water the quench the fire in his throat… and here comes the devil with
his bag of tricks. What is the secret of Jesus’ strength?
Day 5: Sunday, 1st Week of Lent
Strength in Weakness
As human persons growing up in a competitive world, we fear and distrust our own weakness.
High school students applying for colleges are urged to highlight their strengths and downplay
their weaknesses. Job applicants are encouraged to do the same. It is natural to seek a line of
work or study that we feel particularly suited for because of our natural qualities and abilities.
We put our security in our strengths.
God wants us to put our security in his strength, not our own. And to teach us, he will use life as
a tool. There will come a time (or maybe it has already come) when we experience our
weaknesses and incapacities in a particularly keen way. We flunk a class miserably, or a
relationship falls apart and gets messy and we can’t fix it, or we get fired from our job because
we were simply incompetent or we didn’t handle a situation well. Maybe we feel laid low by a
personal difficulty we can’t seem to overcome. These experiences of weakness and humiliation
are an experience of being in the desert with Christ, when his human nature was brought very
low, to the dust.
And what a great opportunity! Christ does not enjoy seeing us suffer, but he does have a deep
and lively interest in showing us our weakness so that he can be our strength. It is really sad for
him when we rely too much on ourselves, thinking we can do it all and be a good person and a
fine citizen and a faithful Catholic without any help from God because we’re so strong and
capable on our own. He knows that our own human strength is just poverty. We can’t work
miracles. We can’t make his Kingdom come. By ourselves, we can live a small life—neat,
comfortable, maybe externally successful, but small and lacking transcendence.
To live a life that is truly transcendent, we have to be broken so that we learn to rely on Christ’s
strength in our weakness. And sometimes temptation is the way that Christ shows us how weak
we really are. It’s not that he wants us to sin—never does he will us to sin. This would go
against his holiness. But he can allow us to be tested to the very limit of our capacities so that
we learn to rely on him, not on ourselves.
Some years ago, a missionary priest named Walter Czisack wrote a book called With God in
Russia, along with a more spiritual version of the same story entitled He Leadeth Me. In one of
the two texts, he recalls the moment when God broke him down and showed him that he alone
could never fulfill his mission. He was in the isolation chamber in Lubianka, a Russian high-
security prison, and was being taken out at random hours of the day and night for interrogation
and torture, since the Russian officials were trying to condemn him definitively as a “spy for the
Vatican”. They deprived him of sleep so that he could barely think straight, and whatever he
said in the interrogation chamber was greeted with punches and kicks (he was blindfolded) all
over his body.
In one of these sessions, Czisack broke down. He was mentally and physically exhausted, hardly
aware of what he was doing. And there, he signed a document confessing something he had
never done. He was sent back to his cell. And there, in the silence, the awareness came crashing
down upon him: I have betrayed Christ. Like Peter in the Passion, he wept and wept all through
But it was also during the course of that night that Christ spoke to him and gave him the look of
mercy that restores us to new life. Christ showed him that this experience of his weakness had
been necessary for him, because now he would learn to rely on God for his strength, not on
himself. After this experience, he went back to the interrogation room with invincible strength
and recanted his false confession. The beatings and the tortures continued, but they were never
able to break him again. He persevered in his mission of evangelizing the people of Russia,
starting from within the prisons and gulags in the height of Communism’s power. His was truly
“a voice crying out in the desert”, amplified and made fruitful by God’s invisible help.
Our weakness is a grace when it leads us to discover the strength of God. Even Christ, when
tempted in the desert, relied on the strength of God, because he did not refute the devil’s
temptations with his own words, but with the words of Scripture. He fought the devil with the
word of God, the Hebrew Scriptures. He was using his dependence on God to fight against the
Where am I weak in my daily life? Where am I tempted and how do I resist? Am I the self-
reliant type who says, “I’ll figure it out on my own”? Or do I bring my temptations to Christ to
ask for his help?
What if, just this once, I admit that by myself I can’t… and humbly ask for his grace?
I believe that the blessed in Heaven have a great compassion for our wretchedness; they remember
that when they were frail and mortal like us, they committed the same faults, endured the same
struggles, and their fraternal love becomes greater even than it was on earth, which is why they do
not cease to protect us and pray for us.
St. Therese of Lisieux
Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems
Today I will make an extra effort to go beyond my little barriers and reach out to someone I
normally never talk to. I’ll do it for Christ.
Today I will buy or borrow a book by or about a saint who interests me, and I will read it
during Lent as a way to feed my soul.
Day 6: Monday, 1st Week of Lent
The DNA of Temptation
Christ is the new Adam, just as Mary is the new Eve; by their obedience and love, they made
perfect reparation for the disobedience and sin of Adam and Eve. Here, in the passage of Jesus’
temptation in the desert, we see how the devil just repeats the same tricks he tried then: it’s the
usual cocktail of lies and half-truths mixed with diabolical cunning. But at the heart of it, there
is a fundamental ingredient, the DNA of every temptation—which we experience in our lives,
too: the temptation to distrust. In Satan’s mouth, the word takes on a sly, sibilant quality:
Look at Eve in her hour of temptation. The devil says, “Oh Eve, don’t be so naïve! Did God really
say you couldn’t eat of all the trees? What about this one? See how delicious it is!” His hand
caresses the fruit, as he hastily camouflages his black claws.
Eve protests, “Oh no, we’re not supposed to eat from that tree because God said not to. He said
we’ll die if we even so much as touch it!”
The devil chuckles and sidles closer with a confidential air. “Ah, but didn’t you know?” His eyes
narrow into eager, gleaming slits. “My dear Eve, God is keeping something from you!” He catches
himself and seems reluctant to break the bad news. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t tell you,” he
demurs, turning away. Now Eve’s feminine curiosity is piqued.
“What do you mean?” she asks, as innocent as Alice in Wonderland.
He casts a swift, sidelong look and catches her gazing at the fruit. “Well…” He glances right and
left and then leans in close to reveal The Tantalizing Secret. “It’s just that God knows that if you
eat of it, you’ll be like him. You’ll be godsssss!” Eve chokes a little from the smoke and sulphur
coming from his hot breath. She looks at him, asking with her eyes, “Is it true?” He nods
solemnly, sorry to have to impart such an awful secret. Her childlike eyes cloud over with the
shadow of doubt and the devil thinks, “Aha, now the fruit is ripe to fall!” All he had to do was
plant the seed of distrust in her heart, and then help it ripen into a sin of disobedience.
This is the DNA of every sin: disobedience born of distrust. It’s what he uses in our life, often with
great success. Fear of authority, reluctance to go to confession, not saying everything in
spiritual direction, sudden suspicions of people: these are the devil’s work.
He tried the same tactic on Jesus, too, but met with resounding failure. Jesus parried his every
move because nothing could make him doubt or distrust his God. He knew very well who he
was and who the devil was; he was not deceived.
The problem is that sometimes we are! All the more reason to rely on Jesus’ strength and not on
What are the temptations in my life right now? Is there an area where I feel like my former
clarity about what is right and wrong, about who I can trust and who I can’t, and about God’s
love for me is getting clouded over or confused?
Remember that the core of temptation is to get you to distrust God. This means that the deepest
solution is to increase your trust in Jesus and to throw yourself into his arms with a big “I
trust!” This is utterly frustrating to the devil, who sees all his plans foiled in a single instant. His
entire program is to separate us from Jesus. By hook, crook, or claw, he will try again and again.
Sometimes he will use our venial sins to induce a gradual slide toward mediocrity. Other times,
he will use a big fall to make us think that we are wretched and that God is disgusted with us.
Other times, he will make us think that we should give up praying because we don’t feel
anything. “Surely,” he suggests, “God is not listening to you.” There are as many tactics as there
are souls, since his method is to prey on our individual weaknesses.
The response: go to Jesus. Go to him with total confidence in his strength and his power, his
unlimited forgiveness, and his active presence in your life. You cannot possibly conquer the
devil by your own unaided strength. Don’t even try. He’s much, much stronger and more
intelligent than you (by the way, this is also why we should never dialogue with the devil, not
even to say, “I hate you!” or “Go to hell!”) and he can easily confuse you. He’s also an astute
observer of human nature and of our particular weaknesses. He cannot read minds at all (only
God can) but he is an expert psychologist who can observe outward behavior and guess at our
internal states of mind. This means that we must abandon ourselves to Jesus for help, guidance,
and protection, and also invoke the Blessed Mother, since the devil fears her even more than he
So, the next time you are tempted, remember that there is a short cut to triumph over the
devil’s tricks: go directly to Jesus, throw yourself into his arms, and tell him again and again, “I
trust in You, Jesus. Be my strength. Lead me. Take my whole life into your hands.”
Yes, I feel it; even though I had on my conscience every sin that can be committed, I would go, my
heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus’ arms, because I know how much he loves
the prodigal who returns to him.
St. Therese of Lisieux
Story of a Soul
Be equal and just in your actions. Place yourself always in the position of your neighbor, and place
him in yours, and thus you will judge well... Examine your heart often, whether it has such regard
fro your neighbor as you would wish his to have for you if you were in his place; for here is the
secret of true reason.
St. Francis de Sales
Saintly Solutions to Life's Daily Problems
Today I will open up my temptations to my spiritual guide or my confessor, since this is a
way of opening it to Christ and weakening the power of the temptation.
Today I make at least 5 spontaneous prayers, saying, “Jesus, I trust in you!” and offer it for
the conversion of sinners.
Day 7: Tuesday, 1st Week of Lent
An Illicit Snack
We know from the Gospel that the devil’s temptations began with little things and gradually
worked their way up to bigger things. He starts on the outside, with the suggestion that Christ
use his power to provide a little snack for himself. “Come on,” he’ll say. “You’re hungry! It’s only
natural. Just follow your natural desires. It doesn’t matter if you break a law or two. You know
you need it. I’ve been watching you and I know you’re hungry. You’ve been out here in this hot,
burning desert for 40 days now. I’m sure a little snack won’t hurt. God will understand your
Jesus turns to his Father and answers the devil without looking at him. “It is written, ‘Not by
bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” The half-lie
is repelled by the whole truth. Man is not just a body. Man is a soul, and the care of the soul—
guarding it from sin, keeping it in the truth, remaining in God’s grace—is of far greater
importance than the comfort of the body.
This is the same truth that the martyrs proclaimed by dying for Christ. Nothing could break
their resolve. St. Ignatius of Antioch preferred to be eaten by lions than betray Christ. St. Philip
Neri, who was roasted alive on a hot grill, told his torturers, “You can turn me over now. I think
I’m already done on that side.” And St. John himself was thrown into a pot of boiling oil. These
saints preferred to let their bodies be served for lunch than lower themselves to commit a sin.
They knew that peace of conscience is always a thousand times more valuable than the comfort
of the body.
In our culture, we need to learn the same lesson. Because we live in such a comfort-saturated
culture, we are scandalized by the prospect of having to endure some bodily discomfort. We are
not used to feeling hunger pangs; we like to sleep on soft, comfortable beds; we wear
comfortable shoes and clothes, even when it means walking around looking like we just rolled
out of bed; we take pills as soon as we feel the slightest touch of a headache; and the latest
statistics say that Americans spend almost half of their waking hours in front of the television,
which means a hefty percentage of time reclining in the Lazy-boy or on the couch. Willingly
accepting discomfort for the sake of a higher value is not something familiar to us. It may be
downright foreign. It may seem exaggerated.
But if we think about it, there is something very attractive about a more austere life. Who has
not felt that icky, stale, glutted feeling after five hours of watching television with the remains
of the day (pizza crusts, pop cans, ice cream bowls) scattered around us? Who has not felt the
attraction to a life of radical poverty, like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity? There is
something romantic about having no possessions and being totally free from the burden of so
much expensive stuff, especially if we have to pack up and move all that stuff to a new place.
Austerity is good, but it is not the main good. Christ shows us by his own example that the
highest good is fidelity to the word of God, which is the will of God. If we are faithful to God’s will
for us in the little things, then he will form us and make us stronger; austerity will come with
fidelity, but it will be an attractive austerity that calls other people higher. If we slide in the little
things, permitting ourselves a concession here, a concession there in disobedience to what we
know is right, then we corrupt our conscience and become little turds. There is no transcendent
attraction in the life of a little turd. An unfaithful person just makes others feel sad at heart
because he has failed at what is most important in life.
But of course, with the grace of God all things are possible and we can always change. And what
better time to examine our conscience than now, during Lent?
Where do I stand in my fidelity to God’s will? What am I letting slide, and am I willing to do
something about it? Am I satisfied to be mediocre or do I yearn for something higher? Where
are my wings? Am I willing to take the risk of being faithful today and tomorrow and forever?
Lord Jesus, grant that what You have said and promised may come true for me and may it be my
destiny to earn it. I have received the cross from Your hand; I will bear it even unto death, as You
have laid it upon me. The life of any dedicated persons is truly a cross, but it is also the way that
leads such a person to heaven. We have begun, we may not turn back upon it, and we must never
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will make a special effort to do God’s will in my ordinary duties.
Maybe the Holy Spirit has been inspiring me to do something that I don’t really want to do
because it will take time and effort. I will stop saying “no” and just do it for Christ.
Day 8: Wednesday, 1st Week of Lent
God or Mammon?
There is a constant spiritual warfare going on all around us, and the battlefield for this war is in
the human heart—specifically, in the conscience. This is where the person stands or falls,
because a breach of conscience implies a breach of will. We cannot go against our conscience
without making a clear choice of the will for a lesser good. A surprise fall, on the other hand, is
not so grave if it catches us so much off guard that we don’t make a clear and reasoned choice
Our integrity of conscience begets our integrity as a person. A twisted, deformed conscience
begets a hypocritical person. The hypocrite lives a double life: on the outside, he claims to be
one type of person, but on the inside he is very different. He wears a mask because he appears
to serve one master while he really serves another. Christ warned us that we cannot serve both
God and Mammon because what ends up happening is that we serve Mammon while appearing
to serve God. And that’s exactly what the devil wanted Jesus to do in this second temptation.
Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil
said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I
may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Notice the devil’s tactics here: first he presents the alluring spectacle to the eyes: he takes Jesus
“up” and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. The devil is an expert in marketing
techniques; what is marketing, if not legitimized temptation? The human heart is so quick to
follow what captures the fantasy of the eyes. We see a new car and we desire it. A man looks at
a pornographic picture and he is addicted; he has been enslaved through the eyes. A woman
sees a new outfit in the store window and she just has to have it, even though it is beyond her
means. And then come the breaches of conscience, when the person does what he knows is
wrong because he is so attracted to the forbidden fruit. Power and glory exert this kind of
magnetic attraction on the human person; they are like a spiritual drug that intoxicates the
mind and heart.
The attraction to power is a kind of greed of the heart, a perversion of the desire for love. It is
the desire to possess and receive without giving, to be worshipped without bending the knee; it
is the desire to occupy the place of God and wear his crown without giving anything in return.
It’s the one-way street of self-love.
These are the temptations that John the apostle warns us about in his first letter: “Do not love
the world nor the things in the world. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh and the
lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world” (1 John
In answer to this, Jesus quotes Scripture: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone
shall you serve.” That’s religious authenticity. I serve God, not Mammon.
Sometimes we make the mistake of trying to have it both ways. We can try to reconcile our
Christian identity with the ways of the world, as if we could have our cake and eat it too. This
second temptation is a call to authenticity: if we follow Christ, we are not seeking our own glory
and advancement. We are following a crucified Lord who purposefully chose the way of
poverty, chastity, and obedience; he chose the way of humility in order to redeem us from our
pride. And following him along this path of silence and obedience is a discovery of personal
It’s not that we can’t use our talents. It’s that we should not use them for ourselves and for our
In my life, I can ask myself: what are my intentions, deep down? Am I only seeking personal
glory and praise in what I do? Do I always want more power and prestige than I have? Am I too
eager to climb up in the eyes of the world, to appear successful? Could this be a manifestation of
insecurity, so that I compensate for my inward lack of being by jacking up my appearance of
being someone important? What do I really want in life?
Do I want Christ or the world?
John tells us to be careful, because if I want the world, there is someone I will be getting
uncomfortably close to: “We know that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1
Never is evil to be done for any worldly gain nor for love of any human being. But there are times
when a good deed may be deferred for the benefit of one who is in need, or it can be changed to a
better deed. In that way the good planned is not undone, but rather is transformed into something
better. Without charity the outward deed is worthless; but whatever is done out of charity, no
matter how small and insignificant, is profitable in the eyes of God, Who looks not so much at what
we do, as to the love with which we do it.
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will do a chore that I normally avoid because I find it distasteful or annoying. I will
offer this small humiliation for Christ. And I will also do it quietly, without attracting attention
Today I will make a spiritual communion when I find myself alone, so as to share my
solitude with Christ.
Day 9: Thursday, 1st Week of Lent
The Corruption of the Best
In this third temptation, the devil takes Jesus up to the parapet of the temple and tells him, “If
you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his
angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash
your foot against a stone.’”
An interesting temptation. Was it some kind of a bungee-jumping challenge?
Not at all. In spite of how it looks at first sight, this temptation was actually a step above the
others in insidiousness. Temptations are stronger and more dangerous when they tempt us in
nobler and higher values because the corruption of the best is the worst.
The human person has different levels to him, each with its own set of values. At the bottom
level, we have physical qualities and values: strength, beauty, comfort—everything having to do
with the body. On the next level, we have our intellectual qualities and values: sharpness of
mind, memory, imagination, etc. After that come the moral values that pertain to the will:
integrity, fortitude, strength of character, etc. And on the highest level of all we have the
spiritual qualities and values that are man’s crown: his holiness, closeness to God, prayer life,
Temptations that strike against the lowest level (ie, vanity over one’s physical beauty) are less
serious than temptations against the highest level (ie, spiritual vanity) because the values at
stake are lesser. By the same token, a sin of spiritual pride will be much more serious than a sin
of the flesh, simply because a higher value has been corrupted. “The corruption of the best is
the worst,” the saying goes. The devil was once an angel; now he is the worst of all. In the same
way, the corruption of what is highest and best in man—his spiritual life—is what will destroy
him most thoroughly.
That’s why the devil reserves this temptation—the enticement to spiritual pride and vanity—
for last. By jumping off the temple parapet, Jesus would be using his spiritual powers to play
with God, to “test” his Father and force his hand. It’s not only that he would be “wowing” the
people with a dazzling display of spiritual pyrotechnics; it is, most deeply, that he would be
abusing his relationship with his Father. This kind of insincere piety, a manipulation and a
using of the other, would be an abuse of trust to the highest degree. It would be a sin akin to
Judas’. To betray the one who is closest to us must be reckoned as the worst of crimes.
Jesus knew that in man’s relationship with God, we need to occupy our place in peace and
humility. That means our role is to submit to God’s will and obey with trust and confidence. By
jumping off the temple, Jesus would be inverting that role, forcing the Father to do his will by
saving him. It would be the height of arrogance to put his Father to the test. “If you love me, do
what I want.”
And so, with a clear, simple, concise answer, he refuses. Jesus refuses because he loves his
Father more than he loves himself. He doesn’t have that inner weakness of egotism, that secret
desire to be the center, that we have as human beings. With him, everything is straight and
clear and honest.
This experience must have been quite frustrating for the devil. The tradition of the Church
teaches us that he suspected that Jesus was the Messiah, but he had no idea that this mysterious
man was also God. Some saints have said that such an idea was totally inconceivable for him
because his own pride made it utterly repugnant to his imagination. He could not imagine that
God would be so humble as to take on human flesh.
He did not discover (or accept?) the truth until Good Friday, when events had been set in
motion and it was impossible to stop the momentum of human passions. Judas repented but it
was too late. All that was left for the devil was to torture the Son of God as much as he could
until he died, and then wait for his own defeat.
Pride is always bad news. It always ends in humiliation and defeat. Is there any of that spirit of
pride in me?
A treasure is secure so long as it remains concealed; but when once disclosed and laid open to
every bold invader, it is presently rifled; so virtue is safe as long as it is secret, but if rashly exposed,
it too often evaporates in smoke.
Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems
Today I will make a sacrifice at a meal and offer it for the conversion of souls.
Today I will say a Hail Mary for the RCIA candidates for baptism in my parish.
Day 10: Friday, 1st Week of Lent
The Opportune Time
The Gospels were written by human men, but they were also written by the Holy Spirit, whose
wisdom imbues every page, every word. We will never plumb the full depth of such seemingly
simple books as the Gospels—eyewitness accounts that tell a story from four different angles.
But occasionally we catch glimpses of other layers or connections that help us to get a more
“three-dimensional” view of the mystery as it unfolds.
One of these “layers” or “connections” is the phrase that comes at the end of the Gospel: “When
the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” In one of the other
Gospels, the translation is “until a more opportune time”. An interesting phrase: what could this
“opportune time” be?
Temptation comes in cycles in our life, just as it did in Jesus’, and our capacity to resist each
cycle depends on how we did beforehand. The devil always ups the ante, even though God will
not permit us to be tempted beyond our strength. In Jesus’ life, the ante was “upped” to a totally
new level in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the more opportune time when Jesus would
seem to be weak, exposed, helpless. This was when the devil thought he could break the Savior
of the world.
Fasting for 40 days and nights was child’s play compared with the heavy, crushing burden that
Jesus grappled with in the Garden. We cannot imagine what it meant for Jesus to see all the sin
of the world—every murder and theft and torture and blasphemy, every rape and child abuse
and perversion of body, mind, and soul descending upon him as if he himself were the author of
all this evil. St. Paul tells us that the magnitude of this burden was so great that it was not just
that Jesus was “taking on” our sin, but he was “becoming sin”. He became sin for us; in his
human nature, in some mysterious way he became totally identified with our sin, to the point
that the punishment of God would land on him in all its fury, as if he had truly done it.
For an all-holy God, which Jesus is, the assumption of this hideous burden was utterly revolting.
Words cannot describe the total aversion Jesus felt as he saw this sin descending upon him like
a cup of filth that he had to drink to the dregs. We should not imagine that this “cup” was just a
few teaspoons. It was more like opening one’s mouth and heart and soul to drink in a Niagara
Falls of sewage straight from all the toilets of the world. All the sins of all the world, from the
beginning to the end: that’s not a cup. That’s an ocean. And Jesus “drank” it all.
But this was not the temptation. This was the will of God. The temptation came at that moment,
while Jesus was struggling to submit his will to the Father. This was when the devil came in
close to suggest a few “thoughts”. In his customary fashion, he began by attacking the virtue of
trust. In Jesus’ darkest hour, he told him that the sacrifice he was undertaking was impossible,
and that even if it were possible, it would be rejected by men. Some saints who were visionaries
said that he showed Jesus all the generations of sinners who would mock his blood and abuse
his sacrifice, falling unrepentant into hell. By means of these images, the devil insisted on the
futility of God’s grace in the souls of those who would reject him, so that everything seemed
black and hopeless. There were probably many other temptations as well, but this is a
What could be more demoralizing, as one prepares for a great sacrifice, than to be told that it
does not matter, and that it will be rejected, abused, and cast aside? What is more painful to the
heart than unrequited love? Imagine what it meant for Jesus to see the souls of those he loved
so passionately—those he died for—as they walked away from his gift and plunged their hearts
back into the sea of iniquity, like dogs that return to their vomit (as the Proverb says)? What
could be more painful to the heart of a lover than to see the beloved resist this final effort of
Jesus’ words in the hour of temptation teach us how to avoid giving in to the temptation of
discouragement when our efforts seem useless. “Father, not my will but yours be done.” Jesus is
putting his trust in the Father, and in obedience.
Christ once told a saint that when we meditate on him in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can
console him. In some way that God only knows, our contemplation of him enables us to go back
in time and actually be spiritually present on the scene. When we look at him, we console him;
he senses our presence and he knows that we are trying to be faithful to him. By looking at him
in this great sacrifice, we also receive particular graces that are tied to the contemplation of his
In this meditation, just look at Jesus. Come up close to him and hold his hand. Tell him, “Yes, it’s
worth it! Yes, I’m here and I believe. Thank you for your sacrifice. My Jesus, I love you. I
In eternity, you will discover what those words of yours meant to him.
Christ: My child, in every circumstance this is how you should pray: "Lord, if it be Your will, so let it
be, and if it be to Your honor, let it be fulfilled in Your Name. Lord, if this be for my good, give me
the grace to use it for Your honor; but if You know that it will be harmful to me and not profitable
for the good of my soul, then take away from me such a desire."
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will pray a decade of the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary to console Christ in his
Day 11: Saturday, 1st Week of Lent
The New Eve Who Got It Right
The relationship of Jesus and Mary is a love-bond that surpasses all the great loves of the earth.
There is so much between them that binds them together on a natural and a supernatural level,
starting with Mary’s special relationship to the Trinity, and culminating in her participation in
First, Mary is a most pure and perfect daughter of God. The Father, the first person of the Holy
Trinity, created her and fashioned her with his own hands, saving her from any stain of original
sin even before she was conceived in her mother’s womb. She was the pearl of all creation, and
his loving gaze was always upon her from all eternity. How well the words of Jeremiah the
prophet apply to Mary! “Before you were formed in the womb I knew you, and before you were
born I consecrated you” (Jer. 1:5). She surpassed all mankind in perfection, beauty, and
excellence from the very first instant of her creation.
Second, Mary is the beautiful bride of the Holy Spirit. At the moment of the Annunciation, the
Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and she conceived Jesus spiritually in her heart by faith, and
then physically in her womb by her word joined to his power. Her “fiat” or “let it be done to me”
at the Annunciation was her “I do” in this marriage to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy
Third, Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
She carried him in her womb with love beyond all telling, carrying on an interior conversation
of prayer for nine months. Then, at the end of those nine months, mother and child were able to
gaze upon each other face to face for the first time. How often must Mary have gazed at Jesus in
secret, while he was working or praying or just living his hidden life! What love must have
burned in her heart for this, her Son, who was also her Lord! There is no human relationship on
earth that can compare to the way that Mary loved Jesus. He was her everything: the heart of
her heart, the flesh of her flesh. From the very beginning to the end, her heart was knit into his
until they were just one heart.
The natural union of mother and son was surpassed by the supernatural union of their perfect
obedience to God’s will. Remember that Jesus was told on one occasion, “Your mother and
brothers are looking for you,” and he responded: “Who are my mother and my brothers? Those
who do the will of God are my mother and brothers.” Did he reject Mary by these words? No! He
embraced her even more closely, because no one did the will of God more perfectly than Mary.
Everything that Jesus suffered, Mary suffered too. She accompanied him in every step of his
Passion, sometimes by her physical presence and at other times by means of an interior vision
of Jesus, a mystical union with him that God granted her. When Jesus suffered and was tempted
in the Garden and had to fight for his “yes”, Mary suffered and was tempted with him. His “yes”
was her “yes”. His fidelity was her fidelity. They fought together, this new man and new woman
who together redeemed the race. Jesus redeemed the world; he is our Savior. But Mary was his
first co-redeemer, chosen to suffer with him to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of
Christ”, as St. Paul says.
In a private revelation, Mary told St. Bridget of Sweden that “his suffering became my suffering,
because His Heart was mine. And just as Adam and Eve sold the world for an apple, so in a
certain sense, my Son and I redeemed the world with one Heart”.
One heart, one will. That virtue and firmness of Jesus under temptation was Mary’s too. Love
was what made her strong. She had a courage born of goodness, born of concern for another.
Do I have this same strength in my life? Can I say that my strength comes from my love?
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from
your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance
of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray;
while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from
deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to
fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the
Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems
Today I will find a holy card of Mary and put it on my desk so that when I work I can look at
her and tell her I love her.
Today I will invite my mom to pray a decade of the rosary with me.
Glory before the Storm
Second Week of Lent
Passage for the week: Luke 9:28-29
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face
changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were
conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was
going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but
becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
Fruit for the week: to let Jesus lead me in prayer and in life
Petition for the week: Jesus, teach me to follow your lead.
Composition of place: Imagine yourself there, in the shoes of Peter or John or James. You
awake from your little nap just in time to see Jesus shining with the light and glory of heaven,
talking to Moses and Elijah about his future sufferings. There is a message for you in this event,
but you don’t know what it is. Many more things still have to happen: the Passion has to take
place first, and then the Holy Spirit will remind you of all that you saw and heard. But on the
way down the mountain, you look at Jesus differently. You always knew he was more than a
carpenter. Now you’re sure he’s the Messiah sent by God.
Day 12: Sunday, 2nd Week of Lent
An Invitation to Pray
Going up a mountain is always symbolic in biblical imagery: it means going up to encounter
God. It is an image of prayer, a temporary departure from the world below in order to seek and
meet God in silence and peace.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus doesn’t want to pray alone. The Gospel says he “took Peter, John,
and James”—the same three he invited to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane on the
eve of his Passion. And here, as then, they find themselves overcome by sleep. Perhaps there
was a good reason for these three, hardworking men to be tired. Perhaps this event of the
Transfiguration took place in the evening or night, after a long and busy day of healing and
preaching among the crowds. If they were “overcome” by sleep, it was surely because their
bodies were exhausted and they simply could not resist.
The Transfiguration of Christ pulled them out of the realm of sleep, not only literally, but also
spiritually. “Becoming fully awake, they saw his glory.” Their souls awakened. Through the
action of God in prayer, they were able to recognize his presence beneath the appearances of
things. The more we try to talk to Jesus and listen to him in our darkness, the more he will
touch us and awaken us, and we will see him in his light.
We must not forget that prayer is a two-way street. It’s not just we who are striving to talk to
God and fight off distractions about our past errors and pending errands. We should never
think that we are alone, trying to call out to a God who seems far away or busy with other
customers. We’re not on hold. We have a live connection. He is watching, listening with keen
interest. And when he sees that the moment is right, he will reach out his hand and awaken our
soul with a vivid experience of his presence and his love.
When have I felt this invitation to come away for a while and pray? Do I listen to Christ in my
darkness? Do I really believe he is there listening to me, loving me? Or do I ever catch myself
praying as if I were just talking to a wall?
Making an act of faith in God is not just saying some words: “Jesus, I believe you are here.” It is
an act of believing, deeply and from the heart, that he is here. He is listening. He is alive. Talk to
him like that, knowing that he is closer to you than you are to yourself.
Christ has confidence in your ability to reach him and follow him, and he has expressed this
confidence through the face and the words of John Paul II. In his apostolic letter, Novo Millenio
Ineunte, he writes:
“Yet again, the young have shown themselves to be for Rome and for the Church a special gift of
the Spirit of God. Sometimes when we look at the young, with the problems and weaknesses
that characterize them in contemporary society, we tend to be pessimistic. The Jubilee of Young
People however changed that, telling us that young people, whatever their possible ambiguities,
have a profound longing for those genuine values which find their fullness in Christ. Is not
Christ the secret of true freedom and profound joy of heart? Is not Christ the supreme friend
and the teacher of all genuine friendship? If Christ is presented to young people as he really is,
they experience him as an answer that is convincing and they can accept his message, even
when it is demanding and bears the mark of the Cross. For this reason, in response to their
enthusiasm, I did not hesitate to ask them to make a radical choice of faith and life and present
them with a stupendous task: to become "morning watchmen" (cf. Is 21:11-12) at the dawn of
the new millennium.”
This is the message of the Transfiguration: it is also a call of confidence in the youth. You can
respond. You can live up to the mission of becoming a “morning watchman”, a sentinel of hope
in the 21st century. But you can fulfill this mission only if you pray and touch Christ every
morning in your prayer.
Do you pray?
Prayer places our intelligence in the divine light and exposes our will to the warmth of divine love.
It is the best way to purge our intelligence of its ignorance and our will of its bad affections. It is
the water of benediction, allowing the plants of our good desires to flower and grow again,
cleansing our soul of its imperfections and quenching the passions of our heart. I suggest above all
mental prayer of the mind and heart, especially that which is made on the life and passion of Our
Lord. In contemplating him you will be filled with him, you will learn to act like him and to
“conform” your actions to his. Do not children learn to speak by listening to their mother and
repeating after her? In our remaining close to the Lord by meditation, listening to his words,
contemplating his actions and his affections, we will learn with his grace, to speak, to act, and to
will like him.
St. Francis de Sales
Introduction to the Devout Life
Today I will get to bed earlier so that I’m more awake when I pray tomorrow.
Maybe my life is more disorganized and last-minute than it needs to be. Today I will look at
my daily routine (or lack thereof) and see where I need to be more disciplined so that I can
have more peace of mind and interior calm.
Day 13: Monday, 2nd Week of Lent
I Want to See His Face
One of the most encouraging things about the Gospel is the way it shows us real human beings:
they get tired, they sometimes bicker, they’re slow to catch on, they fall victim to ambition, they
make promises they can’t keep… They are fully human, just like us. And yet Jesus touched them
and changed them into heroic apostles, real saints who didn’t stop being fully human, but who
had something else inside of them that drove them out of their little world of fishing and
He awakened them in an experience of prayer that they did not merit for themselves. And once
he had awakened them, they were able to see his face in glory, shining bright in the darkness of
the evening or the night.
The light shining on the face of Jesus is the fruition of prayer. It’s the discovery that the human
heart is made for: the face of love, which the darkness of sin can neither understand nor
And what is this face of love that we find? It is a face not only of light, but also of joy, sorrow,
and glory; it is the face of Christ that we see through Mary’s eyes when we pray the rosary she
gave us. It is also a face that we can learn to see by contemplating the Gospel and by placing
ourselves in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
But it is not only we who are looking at his face; he is also looking at us. During these forty days
of Lent, Jesus wants to show you his face, but he also wants you to experience what it feels like
to be looked at with love. He wants you to show your face to him, too.
Sometimes we hesitate to come close to Christ because do not feel worthy of him. But Christ
could tell us, “Nonsense! Who makes you worthy? I do! And how can I make you worthy if you
do not come to me so that I can transform you with my grace?” We’ll never be worthy of so
great a love, but he wants us to come anyway. Remember the invitation: “Come to me, all you
who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). Our rest is to be
in him. He solves everything.
You don’t have to be perfect to have this experience of Christ in prayer. He takes you as you are,
with your feeling of inadequacy and “I don’t think I’m really the right person for this”. He just
takes you because he wants it to be you. It has to be you because he loves you, and as Pascal put
it, “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know”. It’s not that you have to earn your
way toward the experience of Christ by being good and doing everything right. Of course, we
have to be virtuous, but we shouldn’t put our trust in our own efforts to do and be good. We
can’t expect to climb up to heaven by our own unaided strength. God has to come down to lift
And he does it. He does it when and how he wants. When Christ touches our soul, when he lets
us see his face and have that experience of his love, we are different. He changes us when he
touches us. After experiencing that we are loved, not just once but again and again, we become
more capable of loving him back. We become more capable of charity because he has given us
the love to give to others. Prayer generates charity and fuels virtue.
So even though you’re half asleep and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, persevere in
prayer. When he wants to, he will touch you and awaken you and give you a glimpse of his face.
Have you experienced Christ yet in prayer? Have you felt the sudden shock, joy, and delirium of
his presence sweeping through you like a thousand volts of happiness?
Christ wants you to have this experience of his love. It is the only motivation that really sticks; it
is the heart and kernel of our Christian life because it’s the beginning of heaven. It’s the glory
that keeps us going through the cross.
These words of Isaiah: ‘Who has believed our report? There is no beauty in him, no comeliness, etc.’
have made the whole foundation of my devotion to the Holy Face, or, to express it better, the
foundation of all my piety. I, too, have desired to be without beauty, alone in treading the
winepress, unknown to everyone.”
St. Therese of Lisieux
Her Last Conversations
“They shall look on him whom they have pierced.” This might be a description of the inner
direction of our Christian life, our learning ever more truly to look upon him, to keep the eyes of
our heart turned upon him, to see him, and thereby to grow more humble; to recognize our sins, to
recognize how we have struck him, how we have wounded our brethren and thereby wounded
him; to look upon him and, at the same time, to take hope, because he whom we have wounded is
he who loves us; to look upon him and receive the way of life. Lord, grant us to look upon you and,
in so doing, to find true life!
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
Today I will go and do 15 minutes of adoration in front of the Eucharist (or plan a time to do
it) with someone else in my family.
Today I will read the Gospel for 15 minutes in the afternoon or evening, just to look at
Christ and be closer to him.
Day 14: Tuesday, 2nd Week of Lent
A Conversation about Suffering
The Gospel says that Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah about his “exodus” which he
was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. They were talking about his Passion.
In his brightest moment of glory, Jesus was fully aware of the tortures that were waiting for him
in Jerusalem. If he could tell the crowds that every hair on our head is numbered by God, then
surely every lash of the whip and every thorn of his crown was also numbered, known,
He speaks about his future Passover with two men who symbolize the law and the prophets.
Moses and Elijah represent the entire tradition of Israel, and as they converse with Jesus, it is as
if the Old Testament is in conversation with the New. Jesus is the new law, the fulfillment of the
old law; he is the ultimate prophet and at the same time, the one whom all the prophecies
foretold. He is the King of Glory and the Suffering Servant, the Son of Man and the Son of God.
He is the covenant walking, the justice of God in the flesh, divine mercy looking and listening
Together they talked the Passion as the great work of love that Jesus was going to accomplish
as true God and true man. As God, Jesus would be loving humanity with the heart of God from
the cross. As man, Jesus would be loving his Father with all the pure love that broken humanity
could not give. He would love his Father in my place, and love me with his Father’s heart. He
would become a living bridge that connects me to the Father.
And all of this through suffering. His fidelity broke him open; it made him bleed and cry and
suffer. That’s because true love is not easy or cheap. Mother Teresa said, “True love causes pain.
Jesus, in order to give us the proof of his love, died on the cross. A mother, in order to give birth
to her baby, has to suffer. If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making
Jesus is not afraid to make sacrifices for me. Am I afraid to make sacrifices for him?
Some time after the Transfiguration, Jesus will call out to his Father in the midst of his darkest
hour. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” It is not enough for him to suffer in silence. He must speak
to his Father; he must reach out in words, with a gesture that springs from the heart. How
human Jesus is! He is not a machine or a Terminator. He is a man who cries out when he suffers,
who seeks a response from the heart he loves. His suffering is full of love, and his love is full of
This long-suffering love cannot leave me indifferent. I need to respond, because love can only
be repaid with love. And he has already shown me the way and won the graces I need to
respond. In fact, if it weren’t for his love, none of us would be capable of charity. Not even for an
inch. Without Christ, humanity would remain stuck in the gravitational forcefield of egotism.
We put ourselves first as a matter of course. We reject suffering; we avoid sacrifice. And by so
doing, we avoid love.
There is another chapter after the suffering, though, because after suffering comes the glory.
Suffering and glory are stages of love: one is the planting of love, the other is its flowering.
Reaping in joy comes only after sowing in tears. First we fight, then we feast.
In your life right now, where is the suffering that you carry like an unwelcome burden? Where
is the cross, the problem, that difficulty that weighs on you? Bring that to Jesus in your prayer.
Talk about your crosses in union with his. Ask him to show you what to do so that instead of
carrying it unwillingly, you can embrace it with love and use it to sow. Later on, the seeds sown
with tears will become something new and beautiful. Maybe it won’t be in this life, but surely in
the next. No suffering is ever wasted when we offer it with Christ.
There is no human life without suffering, and he who is incapable of accepting suffering is refusing
himself the purifications that alone allow us to reach maturity.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today
Ah! I know what suffering really is!
St. Therese of Lisieux
Her Last Conversations
For the poverty in which my mother and father lived, for the failure of the mill, for all the hard
times, for the awful sheep, for constant tiredness, thank you, my God!
For the dirty noses of the children, for the guarded sheep, I thank you!
Thank you, my God, for the prosecutor and the police commissioner, for the policemen, and for the
harsh words of Father Peyramale!
For the days in which you came, Mary; for the ones in which you did not come, I will never be able
to thank you—only in Paradise. For the slap in the face, for the ridicule, the insults, and for those
who thought I was mad, those who suspected me of lying, for those who suspected me of wanting
to gain something from it, thank you, my Lady.
For my spelling, which I never learned, for the memory which I never had, for my ignorance and
for my stupidity, thank you.
For the fact that my mother died so far away, for the pain I felt when my father, instead of hugging
his little Bernadette, called me “Sister Marie-Bernard”, I thank you, Jesus.
I thank you for the heart you gave me, so delicate and sensitive, which you filled with bitterness.
For the fact that Mother Josephine proclaimed that I was good for nothing, thank You. For the
sarcasm of the Mother Superior: her harsh voice, her injustices, her irony, and for the bread of
humiliation, thank you.
Thank you that I was the privileged one when it came to being reprimanded, so that my sisters
said: “How lucky it is not to be Bernadette”.
Thank you for the fact that it is me, who was the Bernadette threatened with imprisonment
because she had seen you, Holy Virgin; regarded by people as a rare animal; that Bernadette so
wretched, that upon seeing her, it was said: “Is that it?”
For this miserable body which You gave me, for this burning and suffocating illness, for my
decaying tissues, for my decalcified bones, for my sweats, for my fever, for my dull and for my acute
pains, thank you my God.
And for this soul which You have given me, for the desert of inner dryness, for Your night and Your
lightening, for Your silences and Your thunders, for everything. For You—when you were present
and when you were not—thank You, Jesus.”
St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes
Today I firmly resolve not to complain about my little inconveniences. I will offer them up.
Today I will or write a letter to someone I know who is suffering, and I will offer that person
the support of my prayers.
Day 15: Wednesday, 2nd Week of Lent
Snapshots of Peter
Count on Peter to say something dumb right after a theophany. “Master, this is awesome! I’m on
such a spiritual high! Don’t let them go, Jesus! Let’s hold onto the moment and build three tents
for you and Moses and Elijah so you can all stay here!” We love Peter. He’s so excited that he
doesn’t know what he’s saying. In fact, St. John (who was an eyewitness) tells us, “He did not
know what he was saying.” He was just speaking from the heart.
And Jesus surely smiles. But he also knows there is some work to be done.
Peter’s heart is like that: impulsive, generous, quick to propose ideas, quick to put his foot in his
mouth… quick to seize on the good times and try to avoid the bad times. He’s human, all too
This is the same impulsive Peter who says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” at the
first miraculous catch of fish, shortly after his call to be a fisher of men. First he didn’t want
anything to do with Jesus—only reluctantly did he lend him his boat. Then he is so overawed
that he begs Jesus to leave him. I am not worthy. He’s extreme: it’s all one way or all the other.
There is no middle ground for this passionate man.
Later, after Jesus predicts his Passion, Peter tries to take Jesus aside for some coaching about
the cross. “God forbid that such should happen to you, Master!” Jesus turns and rebukes him:
“Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as man thinks.” Oops.
In the Last Supper, our beloved Peter is scandalized when he sees Jesus dressed like a slave,
bending down to wash his feet. When his turn comes, this first Pope cries out, “No, Lord! You
will never wash my feet!” Jesus sighs inwardly and says, “Peter. If I do not wash you, you will
have no part with me.” Peter then does his customary 180 degree turnabout and exclaims,
“Lord, then not my feet only but all of me!”
Peter sincerely loves Jesus. He just doesn’t totally understand what Jesus wants of him. He is
still thinking so humanly, and a human love wants to avoid the humiliation or suffering of the
other and of oneself. He does not yet understand that before he can love God, he must let God
love him first.
Sometimes, God wants to love us through an experience of suffering. Mother Teresa’s wisdom
speaks here: “Suffering will never be completely absent from our lives. If we accept it with faith,
we are given the opportunity to share the passion of Jesus and show him our love. One day I
went to visit a lady who had terminal cancer. Her pain was tremendous. I told her, ‘This is
nothing but Jesus’ kiss, a sign that you are so close to him on the cross that he can kiss you.’ She
joined her hands and said, ‘Mother, ask Jesus not to stop kissing me.’”
Do I let Jesus love me in the way that he wants?
In the washing of the disciples’ feet is represented for us what Jesus does and what he is. He, who is
Lord, comes down to us; he lays aside the garments of glory and becomes a slave, one who stands
at the door and who does for us the slaves service of washing our feet. This is the meaning of his
whole life and Passion: that he bends down to our dirty feet, to the dirt of humanity, and that in his
greater love he washes us clean. We, who repeatedly find we cannot stand one another, who are
quite unfit to be with God, are welcomed and accepted by him. He clothes himself, so to speak, in
the garment of our poverty, and in being taken up by him, we are able to be with God, we have
gained access to God. We are washed through our willingness to yield to his love. The meaning of
this love is that God accepts us without preconditions, even if we are unworthy of his love,
incapable of relating to him, because he, Jesus Christ, transforms us and becomes a brother to us.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
Today I will deny myself a little luxury or comfort that I usually have. I will offer it up in a
spirit of solidarity with those who have nothing.
Today I will kneel down and tell Jesus “thank you” for whatever I am most struggling with in
my life. I will thank him for my problems.
Day 16: Thursday, 2nd Week of Lent
Later on in the Last Supper, Peter makes a promise his weakness can’t keep: “Lord, even if all
the others leave you, I will never leave you!” He is telling Jesus that he will love him more than
all the other apostles, and that nothing can break his loyalty. He envisions himself standing firm
by Jesus while all the others flee. There is an element of unconscious vanity in his love; he loves
not only Jesus, but also the image of himself as the only faithful friend who stands firm in the
hour of trial. He does not yet know himself in the truth of his weakness.
On the night of the Passion, a servant girl conquers him. Three questions: “Aren’t you one of
this man’s disciples?” There is so much confusion and darkness, and the element of surprise
catches him off guard. He hadn’t envisioned it like this. He had envisioned it more as a glorious
public event, as if it would be him and Jesus marching boldly to confront the religious leaders of
Israel. He had even planned out his little speech. He certainly never thought that it would come
like this, in some kind of a back alley where a little lie seemed so insignificant. He never thought
that a servant girl’s question would be the glorious occasion to show his loyalty to Christ. He
scorned the little opportunity to be faithful because his vanity was fixed on the big spectacle in
which he would show his love. But in matters of love, little things are big things. It’s the
intention of the heart that matters, not the size of the occasion.
And then out come the words, “I do not know the man!” He didn’t really mean it. He just wanted
to get rid of this pesky girl so that he could get closer to Jesus. But Jesus takes Peter’s words
seriously. Every one of them, just as he does ours. And so much so, that after the third time, the
cock crowed and he realized that this had been his moment: in the back alley, in the confusion
of a seemingly dead moment that was leading up to a more important moment. The betrayal
had happened in such an insignificant way.
Jesus looked at him, and Peter was brought home to the truth. He wept bitterly and fled. There
were no three tents in glory. There was the bitterness and the shame of having failed his friend.
But what Peter would discover later was the mercy of Jesus shining through a new kind of
glory. The Resurrection would truly be an occasion to build three tents: one for the Father, one
for the Son, and one for the Holy Spirit in his heart. There would be a threefold question: “Peter,
do you love me?” and a threefold answer from his humbled and purified heart: “Lord, you know
everything. You know that I love you.”
Peter had experienced the love of God in a way that went way beyond his own personal
imaginings. He had never thought it would happen that way, but God took his dream, his
deepest wish—to abide with Jesus forever—and answered it. He broke Peter only so that he
could rebuild him as the Rock built on the Cornerstone. It would not be a tent that Peter would
raise up, but Christ’s Church.
How am I like Peter? Do I accept that God has to lead me by his own paths and teach me to love
him from my experience of his love for me? Do I give importance to the details of my actions
and words? Where does Jesus want me to respond to him more faithfully? Where does he want
me to let go and stop making promises and just let him love me? Is my fidelity born of my
experience of his love for me?
Look at little children: they never stop breaking things, tearing things, falling down, and they do
this even while loving their parents very, very much. When I fall in this way, it makes me realize
my nothingness more, and I say to myself: What would I do, and what would I become, if I were to
rely on my own strength?
I understand very well why St. Peter fell. Poor Peter, he was relying on himself instead of relying
only on God’s strength. I’m very sure that if St. Peter had said humbly to Jesus, “Give me the grace, I
beg you, to follow you even to death,” he would have received it immediately. I’m very certain that
Our Lord didn’t say any more to his Apostles through his instructions and his physical presence
than he says to us through his good inspirations and his grace. He could have said to St. Peter: “Ask
me for the strength to accomplish what you want.” But no, He didn’t because He wanted to show
Peter his weakness, and because, before ruling the Church that is filled with sinners, he had to
experience for himself what man is able to do without God’s help.
Before Peter fell, Our Lord had said to him, “And once you are converted, strengthen your
brethren.” This means: Convince them of the weakness of human strength through your own
St. Therese of Lisieux
Her Last Conversations
Today I will do something to get to know the Pope better as the successor of St. Peter.
Maybe I will read a short biography of his life, or pick up a copy of his encyclical Deus Caritas
Est or check out his recent addresses on www.zenit.org or www.vatican.va.
Today I do my small, ordinary duties with a more conscious intention to love Christ.
Day 17: Friday, 2nd Week of Lent
Letting God Lead You
It is one thing to look at Jesus and to see what he did, to admire the sweeping greatness of his
total self-giving. But we often relegate ourselves to the place of a spectator who looks, listens,
and then leaves. And this is wrong.
The Bible is the only book in the world written by God. It is also the only book in the world
where the main character is both a historical person who lived 2000 years ago and a living
person who can burst into your life right now and touch your soul. The Bible is the only book in
the world where the Author can step out of its pages and make that personal invitation: “Follow
me. Yes, you.”
You can’t be a spectator when you read the Bible. You become a protagonist, a part of salvation
history. When you let Christ into your life, your personal history becomes salvation history.
What does it mean to let Christ into your life? It’s not difficult or complicated. Our evangelical
Christian friends got something right with the idea of “accepting Jesus Christ into your life as
your personal Lord and Savior”. We might chuckle, but they’re onto something. In their own
way, with the elements they have, they are saying exactly what John Paul II said so many times:
“Do not be afraid! Open wide your doors to Christ!” Benedict XVI deliberately repeated the
same message in his first inaugural address of April 24, 2007 (the complete text is available in
the archives at www.zenit.org).
It’s a message that we need to hear in these times because in this “postmodern world”, some
are afraid of Christ. They see him as the robber of their freedom. Others, more aware of their
personal failings, might wonder if perhaps in Jesus Christ they will encounter the wrath of an
angry God. We live in a crazy, broken world and we are affected by it. That’s why what we most
need is that gentle, joyful, personal invitation to open our hearts, to be not afraid, to let Christ in
as the Friend who comes to save us. He knows very well what to do with us, and he’s not
repulsed by our continual need for his help. There is nothing he’d rather do than be our Savior.
If the Bible calls us sheep, it’s for a reason. We need a Shepherd to lead us. No matter how smart
and independent and strong-willed we might be, we still need to let God lead us. We need to let
God be God. We need to let him lead.
Am I afraid to let God lead me in my life? Do I let Jesus “take the wheel” only when I seem to be
heading for a fatal crash?
What would happen if I surrendered myself into his hands right now with total trust, telling
him, “Jesus, you take over. My life is yours. I trust in your will for me. I trust that you will show
me the way to happiness. I am not afraid of the cross. I am not afraid of your love. Come to me,
and call me to come to you.”
If I cannot make this act of abandonment into his hands, I am not a Christian.
Being a Christian is not a hobby or a part-time occupation. It is a lifestyle of following Christ. If I
want to follow Christ but I don’t trust him enough to take even one simple step, then I should
just be honest and say that I need conversion. I might be Catholic by birth, but I am not yet a
Christian at heart. I am a pagan with some Christian interests.
But Jesus is not scandalized by this. He already knew. So here you go again with another
opportunity for abandonment. Just tell him, “Well, the truth is that I’m scared to let you take
over because I have plans and I’m afraid you’ll break them. Please change me. Convert my heart.
Help me to trust in you and to let go. I don’t have the strength to do this on my own, but you can
do it in me if you want to. And I want to let you. I want to love you. Thank you, because I know
you’re doing it already.”
Now you’re letting him lead.
The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ
in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before
God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2011
Today I will write out a prayer to Christ in my journal, telling him that I’m willing to let him
lead me in my life.
Today I will try to go to daily mass, if possible, or plan to do so tomorrow.
Day 18: Saturday, 2nd Week of Lent
Listen to Him
We also let God lead by listening to him before we act. As the Father told the disciples from the
cloud: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” We listen first in prayer, but we also listen in life
when we follow our conscience and do what we know he wants and what we know is right.
No one knew how to listen to God better than Mary. For a woman like Mary, listening was not
just a physical act of letting sounds enter her ears. That’s hearing. And listening is much more
When we listen, we open our ears and our hearts. We receive the words deep inside; we read
the face of the person speaking to us, and through the face, we read the soul. We perceive much
more than what they say; we read between the lines. We understand more than information;
we understand a person.
If we listen well, we love well. True listening is inseparable from loving. A deep listener is a
lover because one who listens to another is saying, “I care about you so much that I want to
When we try to understand another with this loving attitude, we never demean them. They will
not feel like they are being interrogated, dissected, or examined under a microscope. They will
feel like they are being received, that their experience is given value, that they are accepted and
appreciated as they are, and that someone believes in them and sees worth in them.
One who listens also looks on others with the loving eyes of a mother, with the eyes of Mary. A
mother’s eyes never condemn. A mother’s eyes understand, excuse, and love. A true mother is a
This kind of listening is rare in our world and it is a real balm for the soul. Pope Benedict XVI
says that it is an exquisite act of charity to listen to others, because oftentimes, people are
starved for someone who will simply stop and listen. Today’s Good Samaritans are listeners
who take the time because they see the other as a child of God.
But we can only listen to others if we have first listened to God. And what is it that God tells us if
not that he loves us? Everything God tells us—even the sufferings and corrections—express his
love. He pours himself into us. He listens and responds. It is a real conversation. And because
we have this real conversation with God, we can open ourselves to listen and respond to others.
Pope Benedict XVI explains it this way, too. Love of neighbor, he says, “can only take place on
the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of
will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my
eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going
beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of
concern. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward
necessities; I can give them the look of love that they crave” (God is Love, n. 18).
We cannot give what we don’t have; if we have not yet experienced this “look of love” from
Jesus Christ to our soul, then we cannot truly give it to others. We receive love in order to give
love. Prayer fuels charity. It is impossible to love souls with a truly supernatural charity if we do
not drink from God’s love for us.
How deeply have I experienced God’s love for me? Do I trust that he wants to give me this love,
not only because I need it, but also because he wants to transform me into one who loves others
with his heart?
Today I will read Psalm 22 and listen to the voice of Christ speaking through it.
I will keep a Bible on my night table and try to read a Psalm or a few chapters of the Gospel
every night before going to bed.
To listen to someone who has no one to listen to him is a very beautiful thing.
In Her Own Words
Don’t get the idea that you are speaking to a memory, a past ideal, a remote God. You are speaking
to Me, fully alive in you.
From the book He and I
The Fig Tree’s Fate
Third Week of Lent
Passage for the week: Luke 13:6-9
And he told them this parable: “There was once a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years
now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should
it exhaust the soil?” He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the
ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
Fruit for the week: to accept that I need to change
Petition for the week: Jesus, help me to respond to your love.
Composition of place: Imagine yourself as the fig tree. Your leaves are trembling as you
overhear this conversation about your life. You feel the axe laid at the root, and then taken
away. One more year. Time to start bearing fruit. What does God expect from me?
Day 19: Sunday, 3rd Week of Lent
Two Sides of Jesus’ Personality
When we hear a parable like this, we wonder what Jesus was like. A person’s imagination
reveals something about their inner life, their personality, their way of seeing things. There is
so much we can learn about Christ from this parable.
First of all, it seems that he has conflicting desires. He acts out both roles: he is the owner who
demands fruit, and he is the gardener who nourishes the tree. He is the just judge, and yet he is
the merciful intercessor. Justice and mercy go together in Christ, and both are necessary.
This is what the book of Hebrews refers to when it says, “He had to be made like his brethren
(us) in all things, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,
to make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). He is both faithful (just) and merciful
because these two attributes balance each other. One who is just, or faithful, is one who is
truthful. One who is merciful is one who loves richly, with a love stronger than sin.
If we took mercy away from Jesus, we would be left with a truthful, hard, cold, unfeeling judge
who would condemn us all to hell. It’s what we deserve, without mercy. End of story.
But if we took justice and faithfulness away from Jesus, we would be left with a teddy bear. Sin
would lose its meaning, and mercy would be deprived of its greatness because there would be
nothing to forgive, no drama, no heroism. If sin is overlooked, mercy has no meaning, because
mercy is the love that triumphs over sin. It is the love that forgives when trampled and abused,
the love that converts the heart of the sinner. It is the love that bends its back over the
whipping post, not because it is weak, but because it is strong.
Pope Paul VI has said that one of the great evils of our time is that many people seem to have
lost the sense of sin. We are not aware of our sin; it is too easily explained away in psychological
terms as a habit or as a need. “I’m just made that way.” At the same time, there are strong
trends in our culture that reinforce and seem to legitimize sinful habits through mass media,
laws, and public education campaigns. The gay rights movement is one example. This push for
“gay rights” has become so strong that many people are afraid to say that homosexual behavior
is wrong. They are afraid to be labeled as judgmental or bigoted. People have lost sight of the
fact that such behavior goes against the law of God and the law of nature. When one does not
have the principles clear, it’s all too easy to go with the flow of the crowd. It is easy to abuse the
term of mercy, as if mercy did away with the distinction between good and evil, or as if we
cannot judge certain actions as good or evil.
We cannot judge souls, but we can judge actions. It is not wrong to judge actions; mercy does
not abolish moral truth or erase the moral standard. If we make the mercy of God contradict the
truth, we are making God contradict himself and call evil “good”.
It’s easy to apply these ideas to other people out there, but what about me? Do I trust enough in
the mercy of God to submit myself to his truth? Do I respect the moral law or do I presume that
what I do doesn’t matter because “God is love”?
What we do does matter, because it is Jesus who pays the price. Mercy is not a commodity or a
cheap grace, something to be gotten on sale at K-Mart. Mercy is the blood of Jesus poured out
for us; it is the prayer, “Father forgive her!” as the crown of thorns is pressed into his head.
Christ: I will teach you what is right and pleasing to Me. Think about your sins with great
displeasure and deep sorrow in your heart, never considering yourself virtuous because of your
good deeds. Rather, reflect on how great a sinner you are, subject to the many passions which
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will offer up a physical sacrifice for souls, such as taking a cold shower.
Today I will do the duties I least like first. Just say no to procrastination.
Day 20: Monday, 3rd Week of Lent
What Justice Condemns and Mercy Redeems
We said yesterday that we cannot separate the mercy of God from the justice and holiness of
God. Jesus is not a little teddy bear that I play with when I am feeling religious. Jesus is a God to
be taken seriously.
He is a man of truth, and he will always call a spade a spade. He called the Pharisees a “brood of
vipers” for a reason, and when he cleaned out the Temple with a whip, he meant it. He hates sin
with a powerful, burning, ardent hatred. So does Mary, by the way.
But at the same time, he loves the sinner with a love that is even more powerful, burning, ardent,
passionate, and merciful. Can mercy be passionate? Yes! Mercy is an ardent fire; it is not a
saccharine, oozy sweetness decorated with doilies. If mercy is to triumph over justice, it must
have some muscle to it. Mercy is not a weak and fluffy virtue; it is not a giving in and a sigh of,
“Well, okay, I’ll let it go this time.” No! Mercy is the strength of a powerful, jealous love that
pulls the sinner away from his sin and separates him from the evil of his act to wash him clean.
Mercy is the love that believes in the spark of goodness that still burns within the soul of the
If the sinner insists on clinging to his sin to the very end of his life, he will fall into damnation—
not because Jesus didn’t try a million times to save him, but because he insisted on identifying
himself with his sin. Sometimes this insistent clinging to sin is cloaked with excuses like “I am
what I am. Be merciful and accept me that way.” No. Jesus knows that we are not to be
identified with the filth that covers our souls when we sin. He cannot let filth into heaven, so he
will do everything possible to wash the sinner and separate him from his sin. But if the sinner
clings to his filth and refuses the call to conversion, then he cuts himself off from the
outstretched hand that would save him up to the very last millisecond of his life.
It’s not that Jesus is schizophrenic—sometimes just, and sometimes merciful. Not at all. He is
fully just and fully merciful, and he sees our reality in a way that we often can’t. And although he
will do everything he can to save us, he cannot save us without our cooperation. St. Augustine
said, “The God who created us without us cannot save us without us.”
Justice will condemn the sin, but mercy will save the sinner.
But what am I doing to help people who are going down the wrong path? Do I ever try to help
them or do I just stand back and judge them? What does Christ want me to do as an emissary of
On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the "discrepancy existing between the
message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted."
Only by taking the "way of penance and renewal," the "narrow way of the cross," can the People of
God extend Christ's reign.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #853
Today if my friends start gossiping about someone, I will turn the conversation around to
see how we can help that person.
Today I will try to invite someone else to receive the sacrament of confession.
Day 21: Tuesday, 3rd Week of Lent
In the 8th station of the cross, Jesus consoles the holy women, telling them, “Do not weep for me
but for your children. For if they do this when the tree is green, what will happen when it is
dry?” (Lk. 23:30). Jesus is the green tree. He is the innocent, blameless man living fully in the
sight of God. He is the “tree planted by running water, which yields its fruit in due season and
whose leaves never fade” (Ps. 1:3). And yet, this living, fruitful tree was laid on the ground,
pierced by three nails, and bled to death on a dead tree, the tree of the cross.
The parable of the fruitless tree makes sense only in light of the story of this other tree, the
green, fruitful tree that was chopped down in the glory of his full manhood. The fruitful tree
paid the price for the fruitless tree; Christ received the punishment we deserved.
See now the pathos of the gardener’s words after three years of a fruitless public ministry: “Sir,
leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear
fruit in the future.” Jesus is speaking here to his Father. The words, “Leave it for this year” –
what do they mean? Could they not mean “the year of the Lord” in which we live? These are the
times A.D., which means Anno Domini, Latin for “the year of the Lord” or “the times of the
Lord”. (A.D. does not mean “after death”!)
So each one of us lives in the year of the Lord, which is prolonged through the Church. “I shall
cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.” This he did with his own blood, which is
distributed to us through the sacraments of the Catholic Church. He fertilized the barren soil
with his own blood; his own dying was the condition to give us life.
And then come the words that most reveal this heart of Jesus: “It may bear fruit in the future.”
He does not guarantee that we will bear fruit. He cannot promise the Father what depends on
our free will. He will simply do everything within his power to enable us to say “yes”. He will
pay the whole price of a gruesome death in the hopes that we “may” respond and accept the gift
of salvation. Let’s not let him down!
Everything is gift; everything is mercy. Justice and mercy met in his tree: the tree of his life and
the tree of his death, the cross.
So, when we hear the parable of the barren fig tree, we must never imagine that God is talking
only about us. There is also a story behind it: a God who is owner, gardener, and tree. He is all
three: justice, mercy, and victim. He did it all.
Our part is simply to accept the gift with a “yes” full of trust and to respond with a firm and
decided will. I want to bear fruit!
The magnitude of Christ’s achievement consists precisely in his not remaining someone else, over
and against us, who might thus relegate us once more to a merely passive role; he does not merely
bear with us; rather, he bears us up; he identifies himself with us to such an extent that our sins
belong to him and his being to us: he truly accepts us and takes us up, so that we ourselves become
active with his support and alongside him, so that we ourselves cooperate and join in the sacrifice
with him, participating in the mystery ourselves. Thus our own life and suffering, our own hoping
and loving, can also become fruitful, in the new heart he has given us.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
Today I will do the Stations of the Cross on my own to accompany Christ.
Today I will say a Hail Mary for my parents’ marriage.
Day 22: Wednesday, 3rd Week of Lent
I Want to Bear Fruit
When Jesus calls us with a parable like the barren fig tree, we cannot stay the same. We cannot
say, “I’m sure everything will work out in the end. I’ll just continue on as I am.” No. If Jesus has
given so much blood to fertilize our lives, we cannot be content to give meager fruits. Love
demands love as a response.
And it’s not that love “demands” with the force of rights. Jesus will never say, “Listen, I paid a
high price for you! Now it’s your turn to love me… or else!” That’s not the tone of Jesus’ voice.
It’s different from that.
Remember the still, small voice that Isaiah heard passing by the cave where he awaited God’s
visit? When God approaches a soul with a petition of love, he treats her with exquisite
gentleness. He invites; he does not pressure. He creates a desire in the heart; he stirs up a thirst,
an interest, a willingness that is inspired by grace, but also accepted by our free will. It is all gift
and mystery, this cooperation between grace and freedom.
And without any kind of force or pressure or violation of her freedom, the soul will begin to say,
“I want to bear fruit.” This “I want” is an impulse of love—weak at first, like a little spark on a
smoldering wick. But it will grow and become stronger. The desire will become actions, and
actions will become good habits, and habits will form a character, a character will form a life,
and a life will form an eternity. The glory of heaven can begin with the seed of a single grace.
“I want to bear fruit.” Pay attention to the good desires that appear, almost imperceptibly at
first, in your life. A good desire is a gift from God. It is an invitation to come closer to him. It
could be something simple at first. “I want to pray.” And so you start praying every day. Maybe
you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re trying and God sees that.
Next it could be, “I want to do something more for other people.” There is a desire for self-
giving. Build on it. Don’t smother it with negligence. Or it could be, “I want to be closer to the
Eucharist. Why don’t I go to daily mass a few times a week?” Don’t let it pass. That thought is
from God. When a good desire comes, act on it. If you can’t act right away, make plans right
away to act on it later with concrete resolutions.
Pay attention to the still, small voice, because the grace of God comes and goes and does not
return. Jesus said that every day has its own trouble; every day also has its own grace. So Carpe
diem! Seize the day and with it, seize the grace.
For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very
personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it
must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by
liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly.
Pope Benedict XVI
Today I will stop and think about when I have heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit
calling me to something higher. I will make a note to talk about this in my next spiritual
Today I will prepare a surprise for my friends: a little something just to show them (and
Christ) that I love them.
Day 23: Thursday, 3rd Week of Lent
The Fruits God Wants
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are “love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22). It is
important for us to understand that a fruit is different from a virtue.
A virtue is something we exercise; a fruit is something that we receive as the result of God’s
action. Now, it is true that a virtue can be acquired (by our own effort) or infused (by God’s free
gift). But a fruit is always a gift. It comes as the result of God’s action and our cooperation; it is
the crowning of a soul’s fidelity to the workings of grace. St. Paul is talking about a
transformation of heart and soul that comes as the result of abiding in Christ. It is not that we
make ourselves saints; it is God who does it, and we simply unite ourselves to him and let him
How? By praying. If a tree is going to bear good fruits, it has to have healthy roots planted in
fertile ground. The best way to get the fruits is by giving care and attention to the roots, because
that’s the part we can “control” with our free response to God. The rising of the sap, the inner
workings of the transformation of light into energy, and the hidden genesis of a fruit from a
little bud is all God’s work. He does it. If we touch it and poke at the little fruit and try to push it
to grow faster, we’ll just ruin it and leave our dirty fingerprints all over his work. But if we take
care to feed and nourish the roots so that the sap can keep rising and all those other hidden
miracles can happen without complications, then we are truly seconding the work of God.
Prayer is the best thing we can do to help God form us into saints. Prayer will flower into a new
kind of life if we keep at it.
And prayer begins with those fifteen minutes of quiet time in conversation with Christ every
morning. Those fifteen minutes are essential; as St. Teresa of Avila said, the soul that does not
practice at least fifteen minutes of mental prayer every morning will always be spiritual
stunted. We sometimes meet up with children or adults who suffer from mental retardation or
whose bodies are midgets. We feel sorry for them and we recognize that this is something they
cannot help. But we forget that there is more to a person’s life than the mental or physical life.
There is a spiritual life, too, and there are many, many spiritually retarded or stunted people
around. In some cases, they simply do not have the means to grow. No one has taught them;
they have never been shown how to pray or given a glimpse of Christ. But once we do learn a
little bit about how to pray, we must make every effort to pray daily.
For those who are tempted to be slackers, here is a little motivation: prayer has to be every day,
because your soul needs food even more than your body does, and you usually don’t go a day or
two without eating. If we knowingly reject this daily source of spiritual nourishment, we can
very easily stunt our souls and become spiritually retarded… and it would be our fault because
we could have done something about it. So, we shouldn’t take the duty of prayer lightly or just
skip it because we have other things to do that are “more important”. What could be more
important than talking to God? If your whole life is just to prepare for heaven, and if heaven is
being with God, then it seems like giving him fifteen minutes every day is actually a ridiculously
minimal response to him. We give our other activities too much importance sometimes. God is
more important than everything else
Often, one of the main excuses for not dedicating fifteen minutes to prayer is: “But I’m so tired
and I would have to get up early and I can’t do it.” Well, go to bed earlier. “But I can’t. I have a
social life and I stay up late with my roommate talking.” Well, no one is asking you to go to bed
at 8:00. Just hit the sheets fifteen minutes earlier than you normally would. “It’s impossible. I
get up and it’s just rush, rush, rush. I have to get to work and I can’t concentrate because of all
the things I have to get done before I leave.” It sounds like you have too many loose ends
floating around and maybe you need to stop and “defragment” your gray cells. Stop, organize
your life, get your priorities clear, and then make some kind of a schedule or a daily routine.
It is possible. The question is whether you really want to or not. You could even carve out a
fifteen minute pocket of time later on in the morning, or pray as you ride the bus or the subway.
You could stop at a church on your way to work. Look at it this way: if you were madly in love
with someone and he asked you to meet with him for a fifteen minute rendezvous, or if John
Paul II had invited you to spend fifteen minutes with him, you would move heaven and earth to
be there. You would even get eight hours of beauty sleep beforehand. There would be none of
these feeble excuses. And we’re talking about Jesus Christ! Surely we can find a way to give God
the best part of our day, not just the crumbs.
In addition to the time for meditation, prayer must also be something that is quietly and
unobtrusively sprinkled throughout the day: a little glance at Jesus here, a silent “I love you!”
there, a little Hail Mary, a spiritual communion, a sense of his presence, an invocation of the
Holy Spirit’s aid when we are working on something… this is how we can pray “always”.
To pray is to abide in Jesus, the Friend. He is the one who brings the fruits. Let’s allow him to
work as he wishes, in peace and in trust, doing our best and letting God do the rest.
Jesus wants us to be able to calm ourselves before Him, so that we simply look at Him and are close
to Him without unnecessary words.
Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
The Gift of Faith
If you find no words to express your love, keep silent and I in you will speak to Myself. If you can’t
keep your thoughts on Me, come back to Me as soon as you notice this, gently, without bitterness
against yourself. Since I can put up with you, you can surely put up with yourself. You understand,
I see all that’s going on inside you. I can fathom you. Don’t parents see right through their little
child? And I… I’m at rest in your soul.
From the book He and I
Those who have felt the joy of praying know that there is something ineffable about the
experience, and that the only way to understand the depths of its richness is to live it: one learns
what prayer is by praying. In words, one merely attempts to stammer out something: praying
means to enter into the mystery of the communion of God, who reveals himself to the soul in all the
wealth of his infinite love. It means to enter into the heart of Jesus, to know his feelings.
Pope John Paul II
The Private Prayers of Pope John Paul II: An Invitation to Prayer
Today I will make 15 minutes for silence just to be quiet and alone with God with nothing
else to do but be there with him.
Today I will clean up an area of my room or house that is always messy. It could just be
something as simple as a coffee table that is always cluttered…
Day 24: Friday, 3rd Week of Lent
Learning to See Mercy Again
Now, after reading the parable of the barren fig tree, we might think that Jesus walks around
the orchard of souls like some kind of a tax collector who is looking to gather up what is owed
to him. But this is a totally warped vision of God.
We interpret God according to the state of our own conscience, which we form or deform by
our free actions. When we do good, it is not difficult to see the goodness of God. Our hearts are
in harmony with goodness and it is connatural to us; our eyes are pure, and we can see his love
shining through everything, even the crosses of life. But when we sin, we can no longer see God
as he is. Instead, we see him under the shadow of our projected fears, guilt, and inner
meanness… because sin distorts our vision.
As a result, the tendency is either to hide like Adam and Eve in the garden or to go so far as to
blame him for our faults, which Adam also did by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be
with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). Here, Adam is passing the buck by
shifting the responsibility for his fall onto Eve and through her, onto God.
Our actions shape our vision of God. Remember the parable of the talents, and how differently
the lazy servant interpreted the Master when the time came to reckon accounts. The first two,
who faithfully invested their talent, were excited and happy as they showed their Master what
big profits they had made, and they received his praise with joyful hearts. They made good use
of the opportunity they were given, and they experienced the joy and satisfaction having done
well. They felt happy and at peace with God, because God bestows inner joy when we do what is
right, even if it entails sacrifices along the way. The pure of heart see God.
The lazy servant had another perspective on the Master. As he shuffled forward with his one
talent still bound up in a dirty handkerchief, he said, “Master, I knew that you were a hard man,
reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid,
and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.” (Mt. 25:24). It’s
the same pattern as Adam and Eve in the garden: fear, hiding, and blame.
The lazy servant was afraid of the master, so he hid the talent in the ground. Then he blames
God for his own failure. “You are a hard man. So, it’s really your fault that I was afraid and didn’t
invest the talent.” What a stingy, untruthful, ignoble way of responding to the good God! How
much we wish he would just surrender to the truth, and at the same time surrender to mercy! Is
it so hard to say these words when we fall? “Master, it is true that I am a lazy and unfaithful
person. I have done evil in your sight and the buck stops here. Forgive me, wash me; help me. I
am a sinner and I want to change.”
This is what the Good Thief said from his cross where he was hanging next to Jesus. Let’s not
underwrite that thief’s history. He was hanging on the cross because he had lived the life of a
criminal. In his eleventh hour, he recognized that he was being justly punished for his crime, and
yet he still had the courage to trust in mercy and surrender his soul to Jesus. The other thief
would not bend. He would not accept responsibility, and so he could not accept the gift of
When we have done wrong, we must stop acting like innocent victims who have been unjustly
condemned or dealt a bad hand. The responsibility is ours! We must accept the truth before we
can accept the full power of God’s forgiveness.
Let’s say you have had a failure. Maybe it’s a big one. Can you come back to Jesus with the
confidence that he will open his arms to you? Always! There is always an open door; all we
have to do is acknowledge our fault before him, put ourselves in his hands, and abandon
ourselves to mercy. Like the Good Thief, we can always come home. It’s never too late. Trust is
And when we come to Jesus in this way, we find that the first fruit he is interested in from our
orchard is our heart, just as it is. Come back to me. Allow me the joy of having mercy on your soul.
At the moment of death we will not be judged according to the number of good deeds we have
done or by the diplomas we have received in our lifetime. We will be judged according to the love
we have put into our work.
In Her Own Words
I will organize a sleepover to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ at my house or at a
Today I will think three good thoughts about someone that I find it hard to enjoy being
Today I will say “sorry” to someone I might have offended or bothered in some way.
Day 25: Saturday, 3rd Week of Lent
Mercy, the Fruit of Her Womb
On Saturdays, we remember Our Lady in a special way. Saturday has become her day ever since
she spent Holy Saturday in sorrow and in prayer after the crucifixion of Jesus. On Holy
Saturday, the Blessed Sacrament is taken out of the churches as a way of reminding the faithful
that Christ died on Good Friday. There is that dreadful solitude when you enter a Catholic
Church on Holy Saturday and see the crucifix shrouded in purple and the sanctuary lamp no
longer flickering. Jesus is not there. On Holy Saturday, it is as if he has died.
But Mary is still there. So we flock to an image of Mary and keep her company in her solitude.
One of the most meaningful images of Our Lady is the Guadalupe image. This is the only image
of Mary that was given to us by God himself. No human being painted it; it is the work of a
divine artist who was speaking in the pictographs of the Aztec people, showing them in a
language they could understand that Mary is their true mother, and that Christ is their true God.
The image was so convincing to the Aztec people that 8,000,000 (yes, that’s 8 million) people
converted in the seven years after 1531. This sudden infusion of new blood came at a time
when Europe lost up to 5 million Catholics from the Protestant Reformation.
In the image, she comes robed in the glory of heaven (a blue mantle covered with 48 stars) and
clothed in the beauty of earthly flowers. Her pink tunic is decorated with the designs of flowers
that had symbolic meaning to the Aztec people; for example, the flower over her womb is
symbolic of divinity. At the same time, the black sash at her waist is symbolic of pregnancy;
thus, the flower and the sash together told the people that she was pregnant with divinity. The
bead at her neck, which happens to be decorated with a small black cross, had a triple meaning:
the bead itself meant that she was both a princess and a virgin, while they recognized the black
cross as the symbol of the Christian religion brought by the Spanish missionaries.
To clarify to the Indian people that Mary is not God, she is shown bowing her head, with her
hands folded in prayer. This told them that Mary was paying homage to one higher than herself.
Her bended knee was also a symbolic gesture that they would understand: it meant that she
was ready to kneel to the God who is above her in authority and power.
As the mother of the Aztec people, Mary came to set them free from the domination of their
serpent god, Quetzalcoatl and from their sun god. We should not imagine that the Aztec religion
was somewhat quaint or that it did not need to be radically corrected. It was a bloody,
gruesome religion of fear. The Aztecs offered human sacrifices to their gods, and not just one or
two a year, but thousands. In the year 1487 (several years before the arrival of Columbus in
1492), they offered 20,000 human sacrifices on the altars of Tenochtitlán (the capital city) over
the span of four days. Just imagine the human carnage of dead bodies: that’s a whole city put to
death! The Aztecs sacrificed human beings, including their children, because they believed that
the sun god lived on the blood of human hearts, and that the end of the world could only be
prevented through human sacrifice. There were other gods who demanded human sacrifices as
well; for example, the earth gods and vegetation gods were offered human beings who were
flayed alive, while the gods of rain were offered little children who were drowned in springs,
water holes, and in parts of Lake Tetzcoco. The burden of human sacrifice on the Aztec people
was very heavy.
Mary came to rescue them from this domination of fear and death. In her image, she appears
standing on the crescent moon, which is a symbol of the serpent god Quetzalcoatl; this means
that Mary is more powerful than Quetzalcoatl. In fact, her actual name is not “Guadalupe” but a
word in the native Aztec dialect: Coatlaxupeuh, which means “my image will crush the serpent
god”. Around 1541, the Spanish missionaries began calling her by the more familiar (and more
easily pronounced) Guadalupe.
She also appears standing in front of the rays of the sun, which means that she is more powerful
than the sun god. These images mean that she has the authority, given by one above her, to
speak words of comfort and freedom to her children.
And what is the message that she gives? First, she declares her identity to Juan Diego, who is
now Saint Juan Diego. She says, “Know for certain, littlest of my sons, that I am the perfect and
perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all
things near and far, the Master of Heaven and Earth.”
Once her heavenly identity is clear, she tells Juan Diego who she wants to be for him: “I am your
merciful Mother, the merciful Mother of all you who live united in this land, and of ALL
MANKIND, of all those who love me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in
Her mission: to console these battered, storm-tossed people, these huddled masses yearning to
breathe free… by raising up a shrine where they can come to pray and ask for her help. “Here I
will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings,
necessities, and misfortunes.” Speaking in the repetitive cadence typical of the Aztec language,
she adds, “Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help
and protection to the people.”
Mary’s greatest proof of the authenticity of her mission and her message was not the shroud
itself, although the survival of a cactus-fiber tilma for over 400 years is itself a miracle. The
greatest proof comes from the sudden unification in peace and harmony—including in
intermarriage—of a people who had been at war for decades. Conversions flooded in by the
tens of thousands, by the millions, and Mexico became a land of peace.
No petition is too great for Mary. In fact, she has been heard to complain (to various saints) that
we ask her for too little.
What is that deep, huge, almost impossible request that you have for her? Ask her! Do you need
her love, her compassion, her help and protection? Go to her arms. Do you need unity in your
family, or in your own heart? Ask Mary, your Mother. She isn’t just a wall decoration. She’s your
mother and she wants to be included in your daily life.
Mary's greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly; her
only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only
contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places
herself completely at the disposal of God's initiatives.
Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est
Today I will buy a plane ticket to Mexico to go visit Our Lady of Guadalupe. Just kidding.
I will keep a picture or a holy card of Our Lady with me in my wallet or in my purse or as a
bookmark in a book that I always read. Whenever I see it, I will tell her I love her.
Today I will share the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a non-Catholic friend.
The Prodigal Son and His Family
Fourth Week of Lent
Passage for the week: Luke 15:11-
Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the
share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where
he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a
severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one
of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the
pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How
many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from
hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against
heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one
of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him,
and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no
longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest
robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and
slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to
life again; he was lost and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had
been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and
dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him
back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came
out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not
once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my
friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you
slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I
have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has
come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
Fruit: to come back to my Father again and again, every day.
Petition: Jesus, help me to trust in your mercy.
Composition of place: Imagine yourself as the Prodigal Father who loves his son so dearly.
You’re not tightfisted with your affections. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You have been
strict with the boys, but you love them more deeply than they can imagine. You would give your
life for them. They are always on your mind. The day the youngest one left was a day of anguish,
and you never stopped waiting and watching for his return. The day he came home you could
not contain your joy. How could you not rejoice to see your little boy coming back to you?
Day 26: Sunday, 4th Week of Lent
The Older Brother
Jesus was telling this parable for a mixed crowd of younger and older brothers. His main
listeners were the tax collectors and sinners, while the Pharisees observed critically from a
distance, murmuring to themselves, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Hmmph!”
We can almost see their long robes swishing away in disgust.
Jesus knew that the Pharisees had misinterpreted the faith of Israel. They were stuck within the
limitations of a law-bound faith that depended very much on man’s unaided effort to keep
every rule of a minutely detailed Torah. There were the rules about foods to be eaten and
avoided, how to wash cup and dish, when and how to make the sacrificial offerings, how to
wear the phylacteries, and a thousand other fine points. And all were considered equally
This meant it was complicated business being a faithful Jew. It was almost a full-time job, which
was why the only ones who really kept up with all the minutiae were the teachers of the law,
the Pharisees. They were the only ones who had the time to read all the little prescriptions and
follow them to the letter. Everyone else was just trying to stay alive and feed their family and
take care of their children.
Yet these men were the legitimately constituted teachers of Israel. In the religious realm, which
was the heart of Israel’s culture, they were to be fathers and models. They were to teach Israel
how to know and serve God. And this they did, with a real superiority complex. They used the
gift of their responsibility to form a little clique of the “in” crowd, the ones who were good with
God, while everyone else was classified as “sinners” (ancient parlance for “losers”). Maybe these
Pharisees needed a reality check.
And Jesus gave it to them. Sometimes he gave it to them front and center: “Woe to you, scribes
and Pharisees! You are whitewashed sepulchers that look pretty on the outside, but are full of
corruption and dead men’s bones on the inside!” That’s pretty direct. We could call that a
“direct slam delivered via sledgehammer”. But they needed it that way because their pride was
like a brick wall that made them blind and deaf to the obvious. Jesus’ way of speaking to the
humble, poor, simple, and downtrodden was very different. He adapted to the situation of his
Other times, he painted a parable and allowed the Pharisees to identify themselves in the story.
This was the technique that Nathan used with King David after his sin (see the book of 1
Samuel). The advantage of telling a parable is that it gets past our defenses. Everybody loves
and remembers stories. And if there are characters in a story, we always want them to do the
right thing. It’s so obvious (when it’s not us) what would be the right thing to do.
It’s easy to tell the fictional villain what to do because the villain is not us, and we don’t have to
pay the price. When we’re in the wrong (as a minor villain), we usually see things very much
from our own self-centered perspective. If there is conflict involved, there is also passion:
anger, reaction to the other one’s faults, brooding, and then the self-pity party. It is a natural
tendency to cast oneself into the heroic role (the misunderstood martyr, the unappreciated
genius, the unrecognized leader, the unjustly offended one) even when the facts are obviously
and laughably otherwise. So a parable helps to pull us out of our limited perspective; it can help
us to see with greater objectivity because we can separate ourselves from the story.
Jesus loved the Pharisees and he wanted to reach them. He did not love their actions or their
attitude. But he did truly love their souls enough to tell them the truth. He wanted to help them
come back to him, because if anyone had strayed far from the Father’s house, it was them. In
many ways, these older brothers were more of a prodigal son than the tax collectors and
sinners, because sins of pride are always more serious than sins of the flesh.
They were hard cases—tough cookies, we might say. But we should not forget that Christ was
actually successful with some, if not all. Nicodemus came to him by night to listen to his
teachings, and after the Passion he became courageous enough to stand up for Christ. Joseph of
Arimathea also listened. A young Pharisee named Saul also met Christ and converted. We know
him as St. Paul. So, even with these hard heads, there is always hope.
Where do I stand, in relation to Christ? Maybe I’m not a Pharisee but I might have attitudes or
“moments” that could stand some correction. Does Christ ever have to reprimand me sharply
for not accepting the truth immediately? Are there ever any areas where I stick to my guns and
I become so stubborn that I am actually totally unreasonable in my perspective and in my
demands? Do I insist on justice “my way” as if I were God?
The older brother’s main problem was that he was too stuck on personal justice, to the point
that he couldn’t see the big picture of: my brother was dead and now he’s alive. Do I ever get
caught in a narrow mentality of just seeing the defects of others without seeing the marvel of
God’s grace at work in them?
Truly honest persons possess a harmonious and pleasant demeanor: nothing reproachable can be
found in their actions, nothing inappropriate in their words, nothing indecent in their manner.
Being spontaneous and respectful, their behavior wins the adminration and goodwill of all.
St. Anthony of Padua
Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems
If I have been stubborn about something, today I will give in.
Today I will smile at a stranger (be prudent, though – don’t give strange men the wrong
Day 27: Monday, 4th Week of Lent
Wanted: Your Spiritual Leadership
We all have Pharisee moments, but some have these moments more than others. Maybe you
know someone who seems to be going through a very long “moment” right now. It could be that
there is a Pharisee or two in your path—not necessarily a religious fanatic, but perhaps
someone whose conversion seems like an extraordinarily difficult and improbable miracle,
given the current reality.
It could also be that God is entrusting that soul to you. Think about him (or her). He could be
your Dad, or your brother, or an uncle of yours, or a guy you know at school or at work. She
could be your Mom, or that crazy radical feminist aunt of yours, or a grandmother who lost her
faith in God, or your own sister who is rebelling against the world right now, or your friend who
is plunging headlong down the wrong path. God is entrusting that soul to you. He needs you to
do your part so that he can do his.
How can we help to bring that fiery, stiff-necked, hard-headed Saul back to Christ? Prayer!
Again and again, the fruits in every field depend on our union with God. Prayer is the way to get
the graces of conversion for souls who have gone astray. If we persevere in prayer, the grace of
God will come pouring through. It could take years to see progress, so we should be prepared
for a long, drawn-out battle on our knees. But we should never doubt that when we pray, God
works, often in an invisible and secret way in the depths of the soul.
As a young girl, St. Therese of Lisieux prayed for a murderer for just a few weeks and he
converted on his execution day. That was actually child’s play compared to the souls entrusted
to her later on. As a Carmelite nun, already a saint, she came to know about an influential and
intellectually gifted, but dissident Carmelite priest who was leading others away from the Pope
and from authentic Catholic doctrine. She saw that his responsibility before God was enormous
because of the position he occupied and the damage he doing to the Church. She prayed for him
for nine years and died without seeing his conversion. But years later, before his death, he did
convert. The grace of God had triumphed in one who was certainly among the greatest sinners
of France at that time. Why? A nun, someone totally hidden and insignificant in the eyes of the
world, had prayed for him. And God had worked.
The devil works with leaders because he knows that when he corrupts a leader, he will also be
able to corrupt everyone who follows that leader. Think about the media personalities of our
times. How many beautiful, talented people have lost their purity and allowed themselves to be
used by an industry that promotes a self-centered, godless lifestyle? Think also about how
many people in influential government posts or prestigious business positions are controlled
by a thirst for power and profit. Many of these people perhaps started out with high and noble
ideals and were gradually led down the path of a more pragmatic and worldly way of thinking
until they had completely corrupted their conscience. It’s not that every CEO is a potential
Enron scandal waiting to happen. But the temptation is stronger at the top because the devil
knows how to target people who can drag many others down.
Who is praying for these people? Who is working with them to help them use their gifts for
God? We have leaders in our Church, too, and we must pray for them. We cannot leave them
exposed to the force of temptations that they cannot fully resist on their own. It is extremely
important in our times to pray for our priests and bishops because they are under constant
attack. If one or two seem to fall into reprehensible actions or attitudes, we cannot judge them
because we don’t know the strength of the temptations that have been launched against them.
If we criticize them openly, we are just sowing mistrust in the Church and helping the devil to
divide us from our pastors. But we have to do something. What? The best policy is to pray and
sacrifice, clearly and objectively communicate what we see to our bishop or the Pope, try to
build up our parish with positive initiatives, and leave the rest to God.
When a leader converts to God with all his heart, he brings many souls with him. But often
times, there is another hidden factor behind the scenes: the spiritual leader who leads the
leader to God! We’ve heard the saying, “Behind every great man, there is a great woman.” This
is often true in more ways than one. Think of Mary Magdalene. When the apostles were
doubting the Resurrection, she was the one who burst into their Upper Room depression and
told them the good news. Because of her testimony, Peter and John ran to the empty tomb,
where they saw and believed. Who does the Church call “the apostle to the apostles”? Mary
Magdalene, a woman—and a former sinner!
No faithful Catholic walks alone; God has so few of them that he has to entrust many, many
souls to their prayer of intercession. This means that I have a special role to play in bringing
someone important to God. Is there a potential St. Paul on my path, or a Peter that I can
strengthen by my prayer and example? Who is God entrusting to me?
Faith believes, hope prays, and charity begs in order to give to others. Humility of heart forms the
prayer, confidence speaks it, and perseverance triumphs over God Himself.
St. Peter Julian Eymard
Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems
Today I will offer Mass or a special prayer for the leaders God has put in my life: my
teachers, pastors, and other people that I know.
I will write a letter to the Pope or to Fr. Alvaro to show my support for the good work they
Day 28: Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent
The Prodigal Father
What a Father Jesus paints for us in the parable of the Prodigal Son! At the time when he told
this story, no one knew that it was really a self-portrait. He hadn’t yet shown the extravagant
depths of his forgiveness in his passion, so they had no way of suspecting that the Father who
was watching his son from a long way off was Jesus. The front row of publicans, tax collectors,
and prostitutes didn’t know why they felt so immensely consoled as they listened to him tell
this story; they just felt great peace. They didn’t know that the Father of the story was right in
front of them, and that he was reading their hearts even as they listened and dreamed of their
own homecoming day.
How much God loves us! There is such an extravagance to the love of God. Think of what the
Prodigal Son did: first he told his father that he pretty much wished him dead. “Give me my
share of the inheritance.” In other words, “Dad, I can’t wait till you die before we carve up the
family wealth. I want my part now because I have a life to live. So fork over the cash.”
And the Father obeys. He bends to the will of his son, who is already a slave to his passions of
greed and sensuality. He bends and gives in to an unjust, unreasonable demand… just as Jesus
will bend and wash the feet of his disciples, one by one, in the Last Supper. He will stop with
special care at the feet of Judas, his betrayer. Later, when he breaks the bread that is his body—
the first time the sacrament of the Eucharist was ever celebrated—he will allow Judas to
partake of his sacred flesh, even though Judas’ heart is blackened with thoughts of betrayal.
Judas takes the morsel and goes out. The Gospel of John gives us a glimpse of what lay beyond
that open door in a single telling detail: “And it was night”. Jesus has already begun to surrender
himself into the hands of sinners. The “hour of darkness” has begun.
When they come to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is the Gospel of John that again
gives us a significant detail. The soldiers step forward to arrest Jesus, asking, “Are you Jesus of
Nazareth?” He answers in regal simplicity: “I am,” and at these words, John tells us that they all
fell to the ground like dead men. Some kind of divine power went out from him at these words,
which echoed the name of God spoken from the burning bush. Jesus had to help them to get up
again so that they could arrest him.
And this same Jesus Christ who once stormed through the Temple with a whip in his hand and
fury in his eyes, will humbly submit himself to the arrest, bend his back over the post to be
scourged by Roman beasts, and submit to all the humiliations and tortures invented by the sick
imagination of sadistic soldiers. The Turin Shroud gives us the evidence of the brutality of the
scourging, but it also gives us evidence of something much worse: along with the blood and
sweat deposits left on the cloth by Jesus’ bleeding body, there is also an unusually large amount
of urine. It seems that the Roman soldiers mocked him down to the ground in more ways than
one. He carried our sins and all our disgrace. He submitted himself freely to all of this abuse,
even though he could have obliterated them with a single glance of his eyes. He was obedient.
Obedient until death.
Then there is the cross, and the words of mercy spoken through such excruciating pain. While
others cursed, Jesus blessed. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the
embrace of the Prodigal Father, who reaches out to his Prodigal Son. We see it vividly in the
forgiveness of the thief hanging on the cross next to him. “Today you will be with me in
paradise.” Bring the ring, the robe, the fatted calf. Today, the Prodigal Son has come home,
borne on the shoulders of the other Prodigal Son, who “wastes” his mercy with such shocking
What is my concept of the mercy of God? Do I realize that Jesus walked through fire to save me?
There is nothing, nothing that can drive him away from me. He will pursue and pursue until he
conquers my trust, until I let him carry me home.
Today, Christ, I will say thank you.
No follower of Mine shall ever walk in darkness (John 8:12). These words of our Lord counsel all to
walk in His footsteps. If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart, it is His virtues you
must imitate. Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will read the account of the Passion in the Gospel of John.
Today I will make a spiritual communion sometime during the day and tell Christ, “Thank
Day 29: Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent
The Finest Robe
Rembrandt’s painting of the return of the Prodigal Son is so rich in meaning and insight that it
must have been painted in prayer.
Every detail matters. There is the son kneeling at the feet of his aged, bearded father, who
bends over him with solicitous, tender care. Both of the Father’s hands rest on his son’s back
and, as many have observed, it seems that one hand has the delicate and fine lines of a woman’s
hand, while the other is more square and strong, like a man’s hand. God the Father’s love
combines the delicate, affectionate, tender qualities of a mother’s love and the strong, firm, pure
qualities of a father’s love. God the Father is neither male nor female, of course—sexual
differentiation does not apply to pure spirits such as angels or God—but his love contains the
best qualities of both. Where do human beings get their best and noblest qualities, if not from
God who is everything that he gives?
Another detail: the son’s bare feet and tattered shoes. As he kneels at his Father’s feet, the
viewer of the painting sees the holes in the soles of his shoes, with one bare heel showing. How
skillfully Rembrandt portrays a long voyage after a life of destitution! Those tattered shoes
speak of many weary, lonely steps, nights of hunger and cold, the weight of regret on his
shoulders, the insecurity and the lack of protection on his long journey home. They speak of an
experience of shame and of fallenness. The burden he carries is already so great—no wonder
the Father’s eyes look upon him with so much love and wonder. My son has come home. There is
no need to explain. I can see how much you have suffered far from me.
We sin when we leave the presence of God, just as we get cold when we are far from the fire.
That’s why the best solution after we have sinned is not to keep our distance and feel wretched,
but to run back to God and stick close by him. Sin must be healed by coming home.
When we return to God, when we truly return to him and live in his embrace, we experience so
much love that we do not want to sin. The very idea of sin causes a feeling of horror and
repugnance when we have experienced the joy of being encircled in his arms, loved so purely
and powerfully. If you were a little girl rescued by your Daddy from a burning building, your
only desire would be to cling to the one who had rescued you. You would not be thinking about
the cookie jar in the kitchen and planning when you will next steal that forbidden chocolate
chip specimen that was tempting you so much. A little girl who is saved and embraced by her
heroic Daddy is completely filled with the joy of being so loved.
There is an experience of God that we must have and that God wants us to have. It is not an
experience of ideas or truths. It’s not about moral norms. It’s not just feelings, either. It’s deeper
than that. It’s about being embraced so deep within your soul that you feel completely secure in
him. It’s an experience of drinking in exactly the fresh, pure water that your soul was thirsting
for, and feeling that water hit the very depths where you were as dry as a desert. It’s the
experience of being clothed in joy, of being recognized and called by name. God is alive, and he
is alive with love for me. He sees me and he loves me! Me!
Have you experienced this? Ask God for it. Tell him that you need him. The robe of grace is the
presence of God living inside of you. It is the experience of a love that is real and true and
powerful and yet sweet and gentle and very, very pure. It is never a love that will use you or
abuse you or cast you aside.
The human being is a being made for love. If we do not experience God in prayer, we will search
for love in other places, from other people... and how true it is that deep down, the real
motivation for everything we do is a search for love! A girl will starve herself into a stick figure
and suffer the hell of an eating disorder because she is trying to make herself worthy of love.
Another girl will betray her conscience and do a thousand foolish, self-destructive things
because she craves the acceptance of another who has set up a certain standard of what is cool.
A girl’s heart craves love and it will not stop, will not rest until it finds that love. There is a robe,
a garment that the heart is seeking... it’s not Neiman Marcus or Saks or Donna Karan or
Abercrombie or Calvin Klein. It’s not an outward robe that covers the body, but an interior robe
of light, of God’s presence, God’s warm and living embrace. The life of grace is the embrace of
God living inside of us. It is the family of the Holy Trinity with all their joy bubbling inside.
If I have not yet experienced this embrace of God, then I am still the Prodigal Son. This
meditation is my chance to ask him, “Reveal yourself to me. Give me the experience of your
love. I am yours; don’t leave me alone in this world. Take me away from here and show me
what true love is. Clothe me with your grace. I need you; help me to come home!”
Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can
give them the look of love which they crave. Here we see the necessary interplay between love of
God and love of neighbor which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence. If I have no
contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the
other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God.
Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est
Today I will invite someone to come to Mass with me on Sunday. (If the person is not
Catholic or is not in the state of grace, I will charitably explain beforehand that he/she cannot
receive the Eucharist.)
Today I will check out the web site www.catholic.net to see if I can learn anything new
about my faith.
Day 30: Thursday, 4th Week of Lent
A ring is a sign of eternity because it is a circle that never ends. It is the mark of fidelity, of a
promise made that will never be taken back. In marriage, the ring is a sign of eternal, faithful
But this promise of eternal love is only partially fulfilled in human loves, because we all know
that human loves are fragile. They perish and fail, and can be snuffed out by death or simply by
human weakness. What was once a raging sea of romantic passion can become a stagnant little
puddle that evaporates into the air. Human love is like that, because people are changeable and
fickle. We suffer the impermanence of love because it is too often based on feelings and
emotions, and not on the deep commitment of a will enlightened by faith and strengthened by
The love of God is another story. This is a love so strong, permanent, and stable that it must
become the center of our lives no matter what our future vocation in life. A married couple
must build their matrimony around the love of Christ or their house will collapse when the
wind and the rains come. A girl or a single young woman in the world must put Christ at the
center as her best friend and ally, as the one who understands her heart most deeply, as the
guardian of her chastity while she waits for the right one to come along. Consecrated souls too
must put Christ at the very center as their great and only love. No matter what our vocation, St.
Paul tells all of us to honor God with our bodies and our lives, because we have been purchased
at a high price. He doesn’t have to say it in his letter, but we know what that price was.
Someone paid for our souls in the currency of blood and someone has a right to our hearts.
But Christ will never force anyone to love him. Again and again, his message is clear: he will win
our love by showing us his unconditional, no-strings-attached love for us. He will never obligate
us or corner us by showing us what miserable wretches we would be if we failed to correspond
to his grace (although this is certainly part of reality too). He pours himself out and calls,
silently, from the cross where he hangs in such thirst.
The love of God, revealed in Christ, is gentle and leaves us free. But we should make no mistake:
it is also powerful, passionate, and jealous. The Old Testament tells us that Yahweh is a jealous
God; he is not indifferent to our response. He will hunt down the soul he loves until he captures
it, and he will use circumstances in life to put us in a position where he alone can be our Savior.
Israel had to learn this lesson many times in her history. The entire history of Israel, the Chosen
People, is like the story of a soul in macro. There is innocence, sin, punishment, covenant,
mercy, infidelity, exile, deliverance, rebellion, suffering… and then the great gift of a Redeemer
who comes to set his people free in first person. God himself, in the flesh. He humbled Israel and
then came to save her.
Tragedies, in Israel’s history, are not just coincidental. They are part of God’s pedagogy with a
stubborn and proud people who found it so easy to say “No” to his plan for them. Whenever the
Chosen People fell into idolatry, he made things fall apart so that they would cry out to him,
The same happens in the New Testament. When the apostles start getting a bit too cocksure,
Jesus teaches them how helpless they really are, and how much they need him. In the Gospel of
Mark, a great storm whips up on the Sea of Galilee with twenty foot waves crashing down on
the little fishing boat with its crew of terrified apostles. Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping peacefully
on a cushion in the stern. They try to deal with the situation themselves, but after a while they
can’t stand it anymore, so they wake him up and cry out, “Save us, Lord! We are perishing!” He
gives them one of his sidelong glances, rebukes them for their little faith, and calms the wind
and sea with a single word. A great calm ensues, and they look at him with awe. Who do we
have in our boat? Well, God. And isn’t that great?
Christ wants to be your Savior, too, and he will allow storms to rise up in your life so that you
will experience him as your God and Savior. As you grow closer to him, he will start detaching
you from other, less certain securities to make you learn that there is no one else you can really
rely on. All other creatures fail. Only God can truly support us in every tragedy and
circumstance of life.
The human heart is like a vine. We can’t hold up our own weight or grow upward without any
props; we always need someone or something to twine ourselves around for support. Most
people twine themselves around their relationships with other people, or around some plan,
project, or work that captivates them. We all need something or someone that gives us a place
to find rest for our restless hearts.
But as St. Augustine tells us, “You made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until
they rest in You”. It is a grace to experience this truth through difficulties in life. Even the
betrayal of a friend, the breaking apart of a dream or of an opportunity, a serious personal
failure… these can be graces if they lead us to rely totally on Christ as our only support. And
although he does not directly will the sins that can cause such tragedies, he may permit them for
the good that he can bring out of them.
This is a jealous love; he will not make your life as sweet and fluffy as cotton candy, because his
love is more serious and substantial than that. He might humble you down to the dust, make
you see how foolish you were to entrust your heart to another person as if they were God, show
you your own weakness and immense need for help… and then answer you as soon as you call.
As one of the prophets says, “The Lord wounds; he also heals. He humbles; he also exalts.”
If I love from the heart of Christ, then I will be capable of loving to the end, no matter the
sacrifices involved. What is my source of love in daily life? Do I put my security in Christ’s love
for me first?
Conversion is fundamentally a turning away from sin and a turning toward, a return to the living
God, to the God of the Alliance: “Come, let us return to the Lord, for it is he who has rent, but he
will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds” (Hos. 6:1) is the invitation of the
prophet Hosea. He insists on the interior character of true conversion. It should always be inspired
and moved by love and knowledge of God.
Pope John Paul II
Prayers and Devotions: 365 Daily Meditations
Everybody feels the longing to love and to be loved. Yet, how difficult it is to love, and how many
mistakes and failures have to be reckoned with in love! There are those who even come to doubt
that love is possible. But if emotional delusions or lack of affection can cause us to think that love
is utopian, an impossible dream, should we then become resigned? No! Love is possible, and the
purpose of my message is to help reawaken in each one of you -- you who are the future and hope
of humanity --, trust in a love that is true, faithful and strong; a love that generates peace and joy;
a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another. Let us
now go on a journey together in three stages, as we embark on a "discovery" of love.
Pope Benedict XVI
Address for World Youth Day
Full text available at www.zenit.org archives of February 5, 2007
Today I will read the Song of Songs in the Old Testament and apply it to me and Christ.
Today I will make a sacrifice of silence: I will not listen to music today so that I can offer it to
Christ for the salvation of souls.
Day 31: Friday, 4th Week of Lent
The Feast of the Lamb
The Father welcomes the son home by calling for a feast. Bring out the fatted calf! Let’s lay out
the very best!
This feast is a prefiguring of heaven, of course, but it also hints at the Passion of Christ on
Calvary, which we relive in every Mass.
Some people say that the Mass is a “commemorative meal” or a “banquet”, and this is true. It is,
in part, a recreation of the Last Supper, which was a meal and a banquet (of sorts). The Mass is
the “feast of the Lamb” mentioned in Revelation.
But what is this “feast of the Lamb”? It is not just a party or a meal where we toast each other,
exchange best wishes, and then eat. The feast of the Lamb is above all a sacrifice in which the
perfect man, who is also God, lays himself down for us and gives up his body and soul to the
Father. Then, since his love for the Father is inseparable from his love for us, he lets his body be
broken and given to all of us under the appearances of bread.
The feast of the Lamb is the feast in which we all partake of Jesus’ body and blood, soul and
divinity. It is the Mass. It is the sacrifice on Calvary, relived in an unbloody manner.
Every Mass has this serene depth to it, this plunging into a mystery that is always alive and
fresh because it stands on the boundary where eternity touches time. Jesus’ cross is always
there at the center of history like a fountain of life that never stops flowing. It is as if the blood
never stops flowing from his wounded side, and the Church stands at his feet like Mary,
gathering up the blood and water and distributing it to all her children through the sacraments.
Like Jesus in the miracle of the multiplication of bread, the Church repeats, “Gather up
everything; let nothing be wasted.” This is because the blood of Jesus is a precious treasure.
The Eucharist, then, is the body and blood of Jesus, broken and poured out for me on the cross.
It is his love for my soul, coming personally to me, in my hand or directly on my tongue,
descending into my heart.
When Jesus comes to me in holy communion, he comes to me in all of his mysteries: he comes
to me in weakness and vulnerability as the little baby born in Bethlehem, and I can cradle him
in the silence of thanksgiving after communion. He comes to me in strength and in silence as
the carpenter who lived his hidden life of work and prayer in Nazareth for 30 years. He comes
to me with truth and power as the preacher and miracle worker who dazzled Israel for those 3
years of public ministry. And he comes to me covered in blood, rejected by men, suffering and
suffocating and thirsting for love, as the Savior whose trembling hands were nailed to a piece of
wood. And he comes to me as the Risen Jesus whose face is full of serene light, with the joy and
power of total victory over evil. He comes to me in all of these mysteries and more, and I can
receive him and listen to him and learn from him in each one, according to the liturgical season
and the needs of my own soul.
This feast of the Eucharist, which is more of a sacrifice than a feast, is made present for me in
the Mass. How do I live the Mass? At the words of the consecration, when the priest says in
persona Christi “This is my body, given up for you,” am I fully present?
When I receive him afterwards, do I block out the world and focus my entire being on the One
who now lives inside me? How long is my thanksgiving? Is it fervent, real, focused? Or do I
forget what happened as soon as I swallow the host?
The Church teaches us that the real presence of Christ lives inside of us at communion time
until the physical integrity of the host is lost through the natural process of digestion. This
means that Jesus is living inside us in a sacramental way for about 15 minutes after
communion. If there is any time in our lives when we are bright with the grace of God, made
walking tabernacles, it is after communion. Not even the angels enjoy such a privilege; in fact,
some saints have seen the angels kneeling in adoration of the Christ who lives inside of a
person who has just received communion.
The Father calls for a feast, and he invites the Prodigal Son. In this feast, we are truly
incorporated into the family of God, the Church. The Eucharist is our homecoming, the bright
promise of immortality. How do I value it and how do I receive it? (Or rather, Him?)
If we knew what the Mass is we would die… not of terror but of gratitude and love.
Cure of Ars
We ought to try to discover a new reverence for the Eucharistic mystery. Something is happening
there that is greater than anything we can do. The magnitude of what is happening is not
dependent on the way we perform it, but all our efforts to perform it aright can always be only at
the service of the great act that precedes our own and that we cannot achieve for ourselves. We
should learn anew that the Eucharist is never merely what a congregation does, but that we
receive from the Lord what he has granted to the entirety of the Church. I am always moved by
those stories of what happened in concentration camps or Russian prison camps, where people
had to do without the Eucharist for a period of weeks or months and yet did not turn to the
arbitrary action of celebrating it themselves; rather, they made a Eucharistic celebration of their
longing, waiting with yearning upon the Lord, who alone can give of himself. In such a Eucharist
of longing and yearning, they were made ready for his gift in a new way, and they received it as
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
I will find a way to go to Mass tomorrow morning just so that I can receive Christ and make
a longer thanksgiving.
I will find a moment during the week to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or go to
Eucharistic adoration if it is offered in a parish near me. If it is not offered, I will ask my parish
priest about what it would take to organize a day of adoration.
Day 32: Saturday, 4th Week of Lent
The Mother of the Prodigal Son
In his parable, Jesus made no mention of the mother of the Prodigal Son. There is just the
Father, with his all-encompassing love.
But in our lives, there is absolutely no returning home without the guiding hand of Mary, our
mother. She is there, invisibly present, mediating every single grace that we receive. The
Fathers of the Church (St. Augustine and company) tell us that if Christ is the head of the
Mystical Body of the Church, then Mary is like the neck, because every grace that the head gives
the body is given through the neck.
This image is kind of awkward to picture (what—Mary, a body part?) but it does tell us an
important truth: every grace that Christ gives us is given through Mary. She is a particular
expression of the mercy of God. There is nothing and no one more merciful than a loving, self-
sacrificing mother, and Mary is the most perfect of these. She is the Holy Trinity’s gift to
humanity. Her one desire is to bring us to Jesus, and through Jesus, to the embrace of the Holy
Trinity. And how much we need such an advocate in our weakness!
With Mary by our side, there is no condemnation. There is no fear. There is trust. When we sin,
Mary weeps. But her weeping is not useless, weak, or sterile. She doesn’t weep because she is
helpless; she weeps because she loves us, and her weeping is an efficacious prayer to Christ. If
the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with “inexpressible groanings”, as St. Paul said, then
Mary intercedes for us with her tears.
The tears of Mary are never for herself or about herself. When we cry, it’s usually about
something that wounded our feelings or our self-love. When Mary cries, it’s about someone
else. Her tears are pure because they come from pure love of God and love of souls.
These tears are interior, hidden from the eyes of men. What must it have been like to behold
Mary on Good Friday, as evening fell on the desolate hill by the city dump of Jerusalem! They
lowered the body of her Son from the cross, and he was totally blackened and broken, ripped
open by human hatred and by all the violence of sin. She knelt and opened her arms to receive
him. The other disciples turned away, overcome. They could not watch.
She held him for what seemed like a long time, and God only knows what an ocean of sorrow
filled her heart. It was all inside. On the outside, she was like the Pieta of Michelangelo: silence,
a terrible peace, the few gestures of a mother’s final farewell, each one charged with so much
meaning and love; there was an indescribable pathos to the way her fingers caressed his cheek
that last time. Such a contrast between her white fingers and his raw, blackened cheek, with the
dry flesh stretched out over his cheekbones. In that deep darkness of sorrow, in the finality of
death when there seemed to be no return, she made an act of faith: “I believe he will rise again.”
But faith does not cancel out sorrow. She carried the full weight of pain inside her, and it was
the weight of the world’s sins. If love is our ability to carry crosses, then Mary’s love was
There was no hatred, no rebellion against the sword that drove itself into her heart. There was
a deep sorrow full of acceptance, and this acceptance was her “yes” to the price of mercy for
The pain did not cancel out her personal, merciful love for sinners. She cooperated with her
Son’s work of redemption, not by suffering blindly like an animal, but by standing by his side
and shouldering his same intention to love and save her lost children. She offered with him
because she was his first and greatest co-redeemer. He is the Redeemer and he stands at the
center as the One who suffered and died for us. But Mary is the first and greatest cooperator
who shares in his work of salvation.
No one has suffered more for us than Mary. She is my mother, and if I am the Prodigal Son, I can
entrust myself into her loving hands with total confidence. As Mary once said to St. Bridget in a
vision: “As a mother on seeing her son in the midst of the swords of his enemies, would use
every effort to save him, so do I, and I will do for all sinners who seek my mercy.”
Do I call upon Mary? Do I invoke her name and her help when I am in need?
We are exceedingly dear to Mary on account of the sufferings we cost her. Mothers generally love
those children most, whose lives have cost them the most suffering and anxiety to save. We are
those children for whom Mary, in order to obtain for us the life of grace, was obliged to endure the
bitter agony of offering her beloved Jesus to die an ignominious death, and had to see Him expire
before her very eyes among the most cruel of torments. It was, then, by this great offering of Mary
that we were born to her to the life of grace. We are, therefore, her very dear children since we
cost her such great suffering.
St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Glories of Mary
Today I will read about the Marian apparitions at Fatima or Lourdes in order to listen to her
Today I will go out of my way to do a hidden act of charity for someone else.
The Adulteress and the Savior
Fifth Week of Lent
Passage for the week: John 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and
the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the
middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to
test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to
write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and
said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again
he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning
with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and
said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Fruit for this week: to change my life from the heart outward.
Petition for this week: Jesus, help me to respond fully to the graces of conversion you are
Composition of place: Imagine that you are the adulterous woman standing in the town
square with a crowd of angry Pharisees hefting rocks in your hands. Those rocks are for your
head, and you know you deserve it. But another man is also in the square, and he stands
between you and the rocks. Listen to him and watch what he does.
Day 33: Sunday, 5th Week of Lent
A Gentleman and a Savior
After the movie “The DaVinci Code”, some might wonder how Jesus related to women. We know
from the Gospel that all sorts of women crossed Jesus’ path: the adulterous woman of this
passage, his friends Martha and Mary, the Samaritan woman, the holy women who wept for him
along the way of the cross, the little girl he raised from the dead, the woman with a hemorrhage
problem, benefactors like the wife of Herod’s steward, and countless others that he healed,
delivered, and saved from sin. Jesus was no stranger to women.
In fact, he was countercultural in the way that he dealt with them. The Samaritan woman’s
question, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jn 4:9) reveals a
lot. Jewish men did not speak to women in public. It was considered inappropriate. Even his
disciples were surprised to find him standing at the well speaking to a woman. It was unusual.
Jesus treated women with dignity, kindness, and respect, as a good older brother treats his little
sisters. There was no danger of falling into any kind of temptation; he was not the type to be
beguiled by external beauty. As John tells us, Jesus did not entrust himself to men because he
knew their unstable fallen nature in depth and in detail, from the inside out. “”He did not need
anyone to testify concerning man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25). The same
applies to women. He knew what they were all about. He knew their secret vanities and
insecurities better than they did. No one could butter him up with sweet words or flutter her
eyelashes at him or pretend to be weak and helpless to call forth his manly chivalry. Just one
look from him would put an end to all that playacting. People felt the need to be honest around
him, including women.
If Jesus dealt freely with women, it was because he dealt with them not as a man deals with a
woman, but as a God deals with his children. He loved them, but it was a love of mercy in which
he was always supremely free, fully in possession of himself, capable of acting with absolute
purity of intention. There were no shadows of self-seeking in his way of relating to women. He
loved them with a total and delicate understanding of their feminine nature and their struggles,
and they sensed that about him. They saw that this man was different; he was not like the
Holiness has its own special attraction because it brings out what is best in others. When Jesus
was around, women became better: more sincere, more peaceful, more generous, and more
innocent of heart, like the trusting little girls they had once been.
If women changed around Jesus, it was because they responded to how he saw them. By nature,
many women form their self-image according to how others see them; they look at themselves
through the eyes of others, and they evaluate their worth by what others seem to think of them.
If a girl buys a new outfit and her friends give her compliments, she’ll wear it gladly over and
over again, because in the eyes of her friends it looked good—even if it actually doesn’t. Or, if a
girl realizes that someone important to her is critical of her appearance, she will feel ugly, even
if she really isn’t. The feminine heart is affected by relationships and by the response of others
to the point that we become, in a way, how we think others see us or want us to be.
That’s why fathers are so important in the lives of their daughters. A father who loves his
daughter and sees goodness in her will bring out the best in her simply because he believes in
her. Daughters try so hard to live up to the expectations of their fathers because they want to
please the men in their lives. If they feel they cannot reach those expectations, there will be
insecurity later on and a constant search for acceptance and love from other men. But if they
feel that they already have their father’s trust and that they are unconditionally loved, then
there will be peace, self-acceptance, and confidence. They will feel like they can conquer the
Jesus looked at women—all women—with the kindness and the pure love of a perfect father or
older brother. He looked at them with utter realism, recognizing perfectly well who and what
they were, but he also looked at them with something more: he saw in them who they were
meant to be, and who they could become with his grace. He saw in them the miracle of
goodness, innocence, and transformation that he could bring about in their souls.
And that’s what the adulterous woman experienced on her day of mercy. We shouldn’t
whitewash what she was. Jesus knew the Scriptures very well, and he knew what the book of
Proverbs says about adulterous women: “The lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother
than oil is her speech, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol. She does not ponder the path of life; her
ways are unstable, and she does not know it” (Prov. 5:3-6).
But he also had a prayer in his heart, the same prayer he would say from the cross: “Father,
forgive her, for she does not know what she does.” He forgave her, not because he was making
light of her sin or brushing it off, but because he was going to save her from the evil that had
taken over her life, making her just as much a prisoner as it made the men who fell for her
wiles. He was going to rescue what was best in her and restore her innocence. It was as if he
took the painted mask off her face, washed away the grime and the tears, and restored her
original beauty. She was no longer to be a tool of the devil or a seductress. Her true identity was
given back: she was a daughter of God, a child of grace, saved and loved.
Most of us do not practice adultery as a hobby, but all of us need to know how God sees us, how
Christ looks at us. Have I ever asked Christ how he sees me? Do I labor under the impression
that I can never please God or live up to his demands? Does this make the spiritual life a burden
Ask Christ how he sees you and what he expects of you. Maybe he will show you that he knows
very well that by yourself, you can do nothing. And maybe, with laughing eyes, he will tell you,
“By yourself, you can’t—I was waiting for you to realize that! Now it’s time to rely on me. You’re
not allowed to walk alone anymore. I will always be at your side. Let me be your Savior.”
Ah! if all weak and imperfect souls felt what the least of all souls feels, the soul of your little
Therese, not one would despair of reaching the summit of the mountain of love, since Jesus does
not ask for great deeds, but only abandonment and gratitude… This is all Jesus requires of us. He
does not need our works, but only our love.
St. Therese of Lisieux
Story of a Soul
Today I will refrain from watching television.
I will make a special effort to speak well about someone else today—especially if that
person is not well liked or esteemed by others. I will look for positive things about that person
that I can truthfully say.
If I have something in my past that upsets or disturbs me (past sins, bad experiences, etc.)
today I will put it in the hands of God’s mercy and let the dead bury their dead.
Day 34: Monday, 5th Week of Lent
The Writing on the Ground
Jesus seems to operate on a different wavelength than ordinary people. The Pharisees and
Scribes always seem kind of tightly wound up, almost hyper in their eagerness to catch him in
something he might say. They are quick to condemn people, and there is an almost rabid
intensity in their zeal for righteousness. Something is driving them; there is some kind of
hunger or desire for their own position to be secured. It is as if Jesus’ presence brought out all
their insecurity about their role as the teachers of Israel. They saw him as a threat to their own
authority, and their voices rose up a notch and became shrill as they accused him.
Deep down, they were afraid of him. His words were few, but they cut to the core. He was a man
of authenticity and truth and they could not bear it. They wanted to cut him down so that they
could dismiss the painful truths he spoke to them, but there was not a spot on him. The man
seemed to be without sin and he knew the Scriptures better than they did. It was humiliating,
and they wanted revenge. They were out to prove something, with all the fire and fury of people
who reject their own humiliation and insist on sailing a sinking ship.
This time, they were sure they had the perfect trap. Moses’ law was clear. A woman caught in
adultery must be stoned; it said so in the book of Deuteronomy, which Moses had written. They
dragged the woman before Jesus, where she stood exposed to everyone’s eyes, half-dressed and
shivering. Everyone’s eyes were upon her and upon the teacher. What would he say? How
would he react? They were sure this was the perfect occasion.
Jesus did not even look at the woman in her disgrace. He did not look at the Pharisees either. He
was on another wavelength with his Father: there was peace, silence, simplicity, and deliberate
slowness in his bearing. No frantic agitation or bated breath or darting eyes. Just a single,
deliberate gesture as he bent down and began writing with his finger in the sand. All eyes left
the woman and were fixed on Jesus’ hand. What could he possibly be writing? They peered
more closely. While their hostile eyes were temporarily distracted, the woman was able to
make herself decent again. She sensed that he had purposefully bent down to draw the
attention away from her, in a gesture of gentlemanly charity.
Meanwhile, the word in the sand was taking shape. It seemed to be a name, the name of a man.
She recognized that name. It had been one of her former… uh, clients. He was an older man,
well respected. In fact, he was a Pharisee. Then another name was written, again of an older
man. The Pharisees stepped closer and saw name after name being written: these were the
names of all those who had frequented the same woman they now condemned. Under the cover
of night, they had committed exactly the same sin for which they now stoned her. Their
righteousness was all a farce and Jesus knew it, and he was showing them that he knew it.
Then he straightened up and issued the quiet challenge: “Let the one among you who is without
sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent down and began writing more names in the
sand. Their consciences were pierced to the quick. No one dared throw a stone. The writing in
the sand was the writing on the wall—evidence enough that they could not accuse her of a
crime they themselves had committed with her. Beginning with the oldest, they dropped their
stones and left, utterly humbled. Some repented that day, while others hardened and hated the
light even more.
What a wonderful Lord we have – the one who could judge us so harshly is precisely the one
who forgives and gives us another chance! When we are convinced of our sin, or when our
faults are drawn up before our eyes, we must be certain that God shows us these hard truths
precisely because he wants to heal us. No amount of parading and pretending will do. It is best
to acknowledge the truth without excuses. If we accept our sin, he will forgive us. But if we
insist that we are right, how can he forgive?
We all have sins and dark patches. The only way to get rid of them is to bring them to the light.
Here, the words of John are especially important: “For God did not send his Son into the world
to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him
will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he
has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came
into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For
everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his
works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works
may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn. 3:17-21).
Where do I need to come into the light?
We should not live in the clouds, on a superficial level. We should dedicate ourselves to
understanding our brothers and sisters. To better understand those we live with, it is imperative
that we understand ourselves first.
In Her Own Words
I will ask my spiritual guide or director to help me prepare my next confession very well so
that it is a deep encounter with the mercy of God.
Today I will be extremely careful in my thoughts to interpret others’ actions in a positive
way. I will not be too quick to believe anything negative that I hear about others. I will leave the
judgment to God.
Day 35: Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent
The Grace of God at Work
There is a relationship between the grace of God and the freedom of man that is truly
mysterious. In some hidden way, by secret channels known only to God, grace penetrates the
heart in silence, like a drop of elixir that heals everything it touches, bringing dry bones to life
again. A person can begin changing in a gradual but real way, in a process so hidden and
delicate that we are hardly aware of it, and we come to realize that goodness has entered us
only when our freedom rises up and says that precious “yes” to God in some concrete
circumstance of life. Then we realize that God has been working, and that our freedom has been
healed by grace. Grace sets our freedom free, while sin enslaves it.
The adulterous woman experienced this silent invasion of grace—a grace that never for an
instant violated her freedom—in the moment of her condemnation. As she stood there
shivering, looking at Jesus’ hand writing in the dust, maybe she felt something inside of her
giving way. For the first time, it was as if a great weight were falling off her shoulders. The mask
was falling from her face. She was exposed… and it was okay. There was no need to pretend
anymore. Somehow, things would be different from now on. It would never be the same.
When Jesus asked them that fatal question and they all began to leave, she trembled in spite of
herself. Perhaps now, she thought, he will condemn me himself. She did not yet know the
Once they were all gone, he walked over to her and stood before her. He did not speak right
away; he simply looked at her and waited until she had the courage to raise her eyes to his. She
was speechless, filled with gratitude but not yet able to express it. She needed some help to be
able to speak again, so he helped her with a simple, obvious question: “Woman, where are
they?” She looked around the empty square, and her eyes turned back to his. As if he didn’t
know! He knew perfectly well where they were; he was the one who had sent them away! But
he was a rabbi, and he was teaching her as rabbis do, with questions that would lead her to
realize and express what he already knew.
Then he asked, “Has no one condemned you?” This question she could answer. “No one, sir.”
Saying it somehow made it more real for her. I am not condemned. I’ve been given another
chance. But will he…?
He read her thoughts and said, “Neither do I condemn you.” At this, the tears came flooding
down from the years of suffering and sin, because the life of an adulteress is a life of suffering
and loneliness and repressed conscience and lost innocence. And to receive mercy when she
saw her guilt so clearly—this was so surprising, so different from what she had expected! She
could have resisted a harsh condemnation without crying; she could have put up a brave front
to all those men whom she had grown to despise, deep down. But to receive mercy from such a
man, whose goodness radiated from his eyes and his whole face…! This was so unexpected that
it melted her defenses. It changed her inside. It brought her heart back to life again, gave her
hope and trust and a reason to live. She could not express all this to him, but he read it in his
He smiled at her tears and told her she was free. “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
This gift of freedom and innocence is yours now. Do not lose it again. Be careful, my daughter,
and keep yourself free from the mire. You are a new person now. You are my daughter. My
grace has set you free.”
This process of God’s grace entering in and healing in a secret way is a miracle. It happens when
someone prays for us, or when we pray for another. Grace increases whenever we receive the
sacraments worthily, whenever we ask God for help, and whenever we build on the grace we
have already received and say “yes” to everything he asks.
Jesus knows that even if we do not fall in sins as big as adultery, many times our freedom still
needs to be set free. We can form habits or get stuck in an attitude that makes it hard to be
generous. We can hit a brick wall when we experience our limitations in charity, responsibility,
and other virtues. And sometimes we think that’s it. If I can’t do it, I can’t do it.
No—that’s not true. You can do it because the grace of God is that wildcard element that comes
in when you least expect it. If you pray and ask for help in a simple way, he will help you. You’re
not supposed to live your spiritual life by your own strength. You’re supposed to experience
your limitations, ask for help, and experience God lifting you above barriers that you just
couldn’t hurdle before. That’s part of the adventure, that little “dance” of grace and freedom,
like a kind of divine tango, if you will. Or it’s like a tennis match; now the ball is in your court.
So don’t start getting self-sufficient. Ask, ask, ask. Beg for the grace, because he never withholds
it when we ask. And then respond to it when you get it. The magic word is always “yes”.
The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man.
Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it,
and perfects freedom.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2022
Today I will ask someone close to me what I should change or improve in my character.
Today I will make a spiritual communion at night before going to bed.
Day 36: Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent
To Repair a Friendship
What the adulterous woman experienced in her contact with Jesus was something similar to
what we experience in the sacrament of confession.
The sacrament of confession is sometimes seen as some kind of repair shop or spiritual
carwash, where we get our sins washed away and our broken parts repaired. Then we come out
all fresh and new, pleased to have a clear conscience again.
Although there is some truth to this perspective, it is not the whole picture. The spiritual life is
not about our own perfection; it is about the perfecting of a relationship, a friendship that
happens to result in a great deal of personal growth in virtue and holiness. The primary focus is
not on our becoming holy, but on learning to love a person, Christ.
If we really love Christ, then confession will be an act of reparation to our Friend. It’s not
because of that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling that we detest and avoid sin, but because it
hurts the one we love. Sin is the betrayal of a friendship. It is an act of senseless violence toward
one who has shown us nothing but love and trust.
Every sin has a rebound effect on our own soul, but it also has an effect on Christ. He lives
inside others and inside our own soul, and our sin drives nails into his hands and feet, crowns
him with thorns, covers him with the stripes of repeated scourging, and condemns him again
and again. There is no escaping it: our sins hurt Christ.
And he lets himself be hurt. He does not resist; he does not force us not to sin. He calls us, but he
does not force us to listen. When we reject him, he submits to the abuse we inflict on him.
The three falls along the way of the cross are about this humble submission to carry our
sicknesses and our weakness. He struggles forward, carrying a cross that is not even his own—
it is ours, and we should have been crucified on it. And when he falls, it is not his own weakness
that made him fall, but the unbearable weight of our sin, our hardheartedness, our constant
rejection of grace. Each fall was an act of atonement…
…and of hope, because after each fall, there is the rising up again from the dust. He descends as
low as we push him down, and then he rises again because he loves us, and nothing we do to
him will make him stop loving us. He is constantly bending low, washing our feet, carrying our
burdens, and rising again to show us that sin does not have the final word. Love does. This is
the message of the third day, the Resurrection.
We experience that triumph of the Resurrection, of love over sin, every time we go to
confession. The beauty of confession is that Christ himself sits in the confessor’s chair, using the
body and the words of the priest to give us his own forgiveness. Try this: next time you go to
confession (which will hopefully be soon), imagine that Christ is sitting there listening to you
say your sins. Imagine that his heart is stirred to the depths with joy because you are coming
back to him, and because he will be able to give you his forgiveness. He longs to forgive.
If you see Christ in your confession, you will not rattle off your sins like a list of groceries. You
will be thinking of him, consoling him, anxiously showing him your wounds and telling him,
“I’m sorry that I did this to you.” He thinks nothing of his own wounds; he looks at you with all
his heart and says, “I forgive you.” It is the spontaneous gift of his heart.
And when he heals you, you also heal him. Whenever we let Christ forgive our sins, we take the
nails out of his hands and feet. By our humble acceptance of the truth, we kiss his feet and
hands, taking away his pain and giving him great joy in the heart.
Do you have a friendship with Christ already? If you don’t have it, kneel down and ask him to
help you foster this friendship. His hand is already extended; now it is your turn to let him pull
you close to him.
You crucified Christ by your sins, but when you go to confess, you go to free our Lord from the
St. Jean Marie Vianney (Curé of Ars)
And how many approach the confessional, sometimes after many years’ absence, bearing the
weight of mortal sins and, as they depart from it, find the desired relief. They find joy and peace of
conscience, which they could not find anywhere else.
Pope John Paul II
Prayers and Devotions: 365 Daily Meditations
If I have already been to confession recently, I will go to Mass tomorrow with the intention
of pleasing and consoling Christ.
If I have not yet been to confession, I will go as soon as possible and I will bring a friend
Day 37: Thursday, 5th Week of Lent
The Advocate and the Accuser
As in the case of the adulterous woman, judgment is a reality in our lives. For every human
being who exercises freedom in full responsibility, there is a judgment.
On the earthly level, we have civil courts which judge people who have been accused of crimes.
There is also a divine court where God will judge each soul who comes before him. And there is
another court, secret and interior, where the Holy Spirit gives us a kind of “pre-judgment” of
our soul: the conscience.
Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s clarifying action, no one arrives to eternity without having at least
some inkling of where they stand. The Holy Spirit speaks through the conscience, constantly
teaching, correcting, judging, instructing, calling us to the light. He is the Advocate or Paraclete
who is on our side because he is on Christ’s side first. He is always pleading our cause before
Christ, and pleading Christ’s cause before us. He is a great unifier and sanctifier who brings us
to Jesus, and Jesus to us.
We need an Advocate—a lawyer, an ally—because we have an accuser who is out to condemn
us and convict us with lies. This “accuser” is Satan, whom Scripture calls a liar, a murderer, and
an accuser of the brethren. He works to drag us down into sin so that later he may condemn us
and bury us in discouragement and despair. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is always
working to bring clarity and light, encouragement and hope, so that we do not sin—and so that,
if we do happen to fall into sin, we can get up again quickly.
St. Ignatius of Loyola developed an extremely helpful method for what he called “discerning the
spirits”, and it is something that every Christian should know. We are all subject to numerous
spiritual influences coming from the world, our passions, the devil, and the good action of the
Holy Spirit in our soul. Sometimes the soul can become confused or disoriented, uncertain as to
whether its experiences come from God or from a darker source.
When a soul is trying to follow Christ more closely, the devil takes a special interest in dragging
her down. He would rather have a million mediocre Christians than one saint, because only
saints do significant damage to his kingdom of lies. A mediocre Christian is no danger to him; in
fact, mediocrity serves him very well because it shows the world a deformed image of
Christianity, which he uses to raise up atheists and skeptics. “Is that a Christian? Oh. No, I’m not
interested.” It’s not necessary for him to drag everyone into hideous and hateful crimes.
Mediocrity also has a place in his kingdom.
So, when a soul starts to pray or grow closer to God, the devil gets nervous. Anyone who has
ever read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters can picture the dialogues perfectly. When a soul is
growing in goodness, the devil’s first tactic is to discourage her and make her think such efforts
are a useless waste of time. He will sow feelings of sadness, futility, and doubt. The purpose of
these feelings is to slow the soul down and make her stop praying. St. Ignatius of Loyola says
that we should be alert to the effects that our thoughts produce in us: when a certain thought
(such as “Maybe praying isn’t working for me”) produces feelings of discouragement and
darkness, we can be sure it’s not from God. Our response should be to intensify our good
actions, pray even harder, and persevere in our good resolutions, paying no attention to the
A soul who is growing in goodness may also experience thoughts or feelings of courage, energy,
and eagerness to continue on the path of prayer and virtue. These good inspirations, which give
strength and joy to the soul, are from God.
It sounds simple enough on paper, but it gets more complicated in life. Souls who want to live in
the truth sometimes think, “I just have to face the music. It’s a hard truth and I have to swallow
it. I’m really far from the ideal. I don’t think I have the strength to do it. Maybe I’ll never get
there.” Then the gray weight of depression begins pulling on our spirits and we feel like
holiness is a million miles away. Stop! That’s not from God. It doesn’t matter if the devil markets
it as “the hard truth” and we seem to hear Jack Nicholson’s voice in the background: “The truth?
You can’t handle the truth!” The devil is an expert at mixing truth and lies. Something that has
the appearance of truth can come with a drop of poison, and there we go, swallowing the
Molotov cocktail. Bad news.
When the Holy Spirit convinces us about a “hard truth”, the result is never an energy-sapping
depression or a feeling of discouragement. On the contrary, he bestows joy, energy, peace, and a
renewed desire to stand up and fight the good fight. The Holy Spirit can show us things about
our soul that are very hard to see, but he will never crush our spirits or snuff out the
smoldering wick. He’ll never kick us when we’re down. He gives us strength, encouragement,
and confidence to believe in God’s help at all times.
We are all subject to judgment, but the way the Advocate judges us is worlds away from how
the Accuser “judges”. One convinces, the other accuses. One uplifts, the other drags down. In
general, St. Ignatius’ principle is to judge a tree by its fruits: whatever hinders progress comes
from the evil one, while whatever helps our progress comes from God.
What Jesus said to his apostles in the Upper Room also applies to us: “I have much more to tell
you, but you cannot bear it now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all
truth” (Jn. 16:13). He will guide us as a friend who brings light to our minds, love to our hearts,
and strength to our wills.
A traditional prayer to the Holy Spirit is as follows: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your
faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be
created, and you will renew the face of the earth.”
Do I ever call on the Holy Spirit every day and ask him to guide me? I can. In fact, he wants me
to. Especially in times of confusion or trouble, when I’m not sure where I stand or where to go, I
can ask the Holy Spirit to be the light in my darkness, and to lead me to Christ.
The reason why the Saints were so perfectly recollected is that they always sought to abstain from
worldly desires, leaving themselves free to give their whole heart to God.
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today I will ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in my work and in my words so that I please
Christ in everything I do.
Day 38: Friday, 5th Week of Lent
What was it like for Jesus to see the adulterous woman standing there in the middle of a square,
with a crowd of men standing around her, stones in hand? It was her moment of judgment,
when she was brought before her accusers and made to face the truth. There was no running
away. And their accusation was truthful, although it was not the whole truth. The whole truth
was their sin and Jesus’ perfect innocence.
Jesus stood between her and the rocks. He did not say that Moses’ punishment was unjust or
that we should start accepting the sin of adultery and look the other way. His mercy did not
relativize the sin. It still had to be paid for; a punishment was still pending.
He postponed the payment because he was going to charge it to himself. Payment day came
when Jesus stood, bound in ropes and chains, before the whole Sanhedrin in a mock trial that
was hastily thrown together in the late hours of the night. One false witness after another came
forward to testify against Jesus, but none of their accusations was sufficient to condemn him to
death. Finally, the high priest stood up in all his robed splendor and asked, “Have you no
answer? What are these men testifying against you?” He was reaching the end of his patience;
accusations had been lodged by the dozens, and no decision had been reached. The Sanhedrin
was getting restless. It had been too difficult to catch this preacher, and now that they had him
in their hands, they were worried that they would not find a sufficient reason to condemn him.
In answer to all these accusations, Jesus said nothing. He did not defend himself. He did not
speak as his own Advocate. The Gospel of Matthew says, “But Jesus was silent” (Mt. 26:63). Like
a lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth. The silence of Jesus was a word in itself.
Perhaps the Holy Spirit was already speaking to the consciences of some of those men in that
little space of time when they listened and did not hear.
But the picture changes when the high priest invokes his God-given authority and commands
Jesus, in the name of the living God, to answer truthfully: “I order you to tell us under oath
before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him in reply,
“You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right
hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Mt. 26:63-64).
This statement was so packed with meaning that it was like a theological bomb. He begins with
a simple “yes”, spoken Jewish style. The phrase, “You have said so” was a typical way of saying,
“That’s it. You’re right on.” Jesus doesn’t have any fear of speaking the truth to an angry
crowd—just remember how he started his ministry in Galilee, when they wanted to throw him
off a cliff! Here, he pushes the truth all the way to the end by quoting from the prophet Daniel,
in terms that would give them plenty of evidence to condemn him. In so many words, he tells
them, “I am the Son of God. I am seated at the right hand of Yahweh, and you will see me coming
again in divine power on the clouds of heaven. Yes, I am divine.”
This is not a later interpretation of Jesus’ words, because the high priest’s reaction is exactly
what one would expect if a man suddenly stood up under questioning and declared, “I am God.”
He immediately tore his robes, which was a dramatic gesture reserved for the most severe
cases of blasphemy. Any good Jew who heard blasphemy under such circumstances would do
the same, as a way of saying, “I have no part in what this man just said!”. He then cried out, “He
has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy;
what is your opinion?” Unanimously, they shouted, “He deserves to die!”
The punishment prescribed for blasphemers—for those who abuse the sacred name of God—
was death by stoning. In the book of Leviticus, a man who cursed and blasphemed the Lord’s
name was submitted to precisely this punishment, by the Lord’s decree. “The Lord said to
Moses, ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and when all who have heard him have laid their
hands on his head, let the whole community stone him. Tell the Israelites: Anyone who curses his
God shall bear the penalty of his sin; whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to
death” (Lv. 24:13-16).
Stoning – the punishment reserved for both adulterers and blasphemers. Jesus at this very
moment is paying the price for the adulterous woman’s sin. He is taking upon himself her guilt,
allowing himself to be led to the slaughter in her place—and in the place of many others.
Why crucifixion and not stoning? At that time in Israel’s history, the Roman occupiers did not
permit the Israelites to execute anyone, not even their own citizens. They could bring their case
before the Procurator, who happened to be Pontius Pilate, but they could not physically put a
man to death. That privilege was reserved for the Romans, whose worst punishment was
crucifixion—the Roman equivalent of stoning.
The silence of Jesus speaks. While the Pharisees accused the woman, he knelt on the ground
and wrote. While the Sanhedrin accused him, he kept silence until the will of God compelled
him to speak. In both cases, the power of accusation was brought against him and he responded
with truth. In the first case, the truth that he spoke was able to save a guilty woman. In the
second case, it was precisely the truth that he spoke that condemned him, an innocent man, to
death. He gave mercy to her, and accepted the deferred punishment for himself. There was no
one to intercede for him in this condemnation because it was his own will that it be done. He
wanted to die for her and for me.
In this meditation, Christ, I want to thank you for paying the price for my sins. Your mercy is not
a cheap grace. Don’t ever let me take your love for granted. Help me to come to you with
gratitude born of love. Help me to trust that I can give my freedom to you because you already
died in my place.
Those who love God much do much, and those do a deed well who perform it for the common good
and not to please themselves.
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
If these meditations are helping me, I will share them with someone else by asking the
person who gave them to me to send me the e-mail file, which I can then forward to a friend.
Today I will make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament to accompany Jesus and tell him that I
Day 39: Saturday, 5th Week of Lent
Silence and Suffering
The whole meaning of the Passion of Christ, which we lovingly contemplate during Lent, is tied
up with the mystery of sin. The mysterium iniquitatis (the mystery of iniquity) is closely bound
up with the mysterium pietatis (the mystery of piety or love); it is strange how God wanted it to
be this way. If we were in charge of the world, with our limited view of things, we would
eliminate or moderate the darkness. We would take away the mysterious power of evil with its
capacity to crush and destroy and corrupt. We would safeguard the innocent at all costs.
But it seems that God has other ways of making good prevail. It is not so much that he protects
the good from evil, but that he allows evil to have its day (or night) of glory, and then the good
rises up from the ashes or the catacombs in an amazing come-from-behind victory. It seems
that God wants the power of goodness to begin in weakness and humility, so that its victory
over evil is that much more astounding.
Maybe God wants the power of goodness to begin in littleness because this way, we can all
make our contribution. We can all have a part to play in defeating the devil and making God’s
kingdom come; he stoops to our smallness and shares his glory with us. He does this by
allowing us to share in his suffering. The more we suffer with Christ here on earth, the more we
will share in his glory in heaven.
Mary was the first one to share in his suffering while she lived her difficult life on earth. We
might think that it was a breeze being the Immaculate Conception, as if Mary’s feet hardly
touched the ground and she floated along in a perpetual ecstasy. Although it’s true that Mary
had a profound interior life of prayer and union with God, we should not for a second imagine
that her life on earth was scot-free of suffering. She was the purest and most lovely of all the
flowers in the garden, but she was also the one who suffered the most.
It started from the very beginning, because every gift that God gave her came with thorns of
suffering. She was gifted with the motherhood of God. There was the miraculous pregnancy and
the presence of Jesus in her womb. But she was also burdened with a complicated pregnancy
and motherhood, from the flight to Egypt to the pilgrimage to Bethlehem on the back of a
donkey when she was nine months pregnant—in winter, no less. And before that, the shame
and humiliation of being found with child before her fiancé had ever touched her.
Mary’s heart was too humble to be worried about her image in the eyes of her townspeople.
What she cared most about was Joseph’s heart. This poor man, so righteous and good, so
devoted and pure, didn’t know what to make of her pregnancy. He loved her but he also loved
God. He knew that the law said that such women should be stoned, but he couldn’t bring
himself to allow the full rigor of the law to land on her, so he resolved to divorce her quietly. A
gesture of mercy, of doing everything possible to deflect accusation and judgment from the one
he loved. He protected her; he was her ally even when it seemed that she had betrayed him.
Joseph was truly a man after God’s own heart – a man of goodness and kind eyes. He did not
leap to a severe judgment. He trusted that she could be innocent in spite of all appearances. He
suffered when she offered no explanation, for Mary, like Jesus, was silent and did not justify,
explain, or excuse herself. She was not her own Advocate. She knew that it was not her role to
explain her situation, and that God himself would do it when the moment was right.
Joseph too, was silent. He did not spread the bad news all over town or blubber over his
misfortune with his drinking buddies. He was a man of prayer and silence; he talked to God and
was prudent and reserved in his dealings with other men. He knew how to carry a burden and
suffer in silence. And in this silence, which God permitted to continue for days and weeks,
Joseph was tested and purified.
Although Mary and Joseph both kept silence about the painful situation between them, they
were both pouring out their hearts to God in prayer. Each was thinking of the other’s good.
Mary was anguished over Joseph’s anguish, and Joseph was anguished over what he thought
was Mary’s shame. Perhaps she was raped, he thought, and she is unable to speak about it? Or
perhaps she… how he suffered!
When we carry a burden inside, a suffering that cannot be resolved immediately, there are
times when God wants us to keep silence as Mary and Joseph and Jesus did. There is a time to
speak and a time to be silent. There is a time to speak to God and a time to speak to men. Why?
Only God knows in each case. But perhaps one of the reasons is that such a silence draws us
closer to God than we can imagine. He can isolate a soul from human consolation precisely
because he wants to be her consolation. He can allow her to taste the bitterness of a deep
disappointment because he wants to be her consolation. He can permit orphanhood and sorrow
and solitude in order to teach her that he is her family, her friend, her life’s companion and
When we look back on our lives and count up the greatest blessings from the perspective of
eternity, maybe it will be those moments of silence and suffering and solitude that are worth
the most, because when we were most poor in the eyes of the world, we were richest in the
presence of God. Let’s not run away from the hard times, but try to find God within it. It doesn’t
have to be hard; there doesn’t have to be some kind of Herculean straining to Practice Virtue…
it is as simple as turning to God and saying, “Here I am. I need you.” That’s enough.
Jesus doesn’t need many words. He just needs your heart, and a heart can be given simply and
quietly… every day.
St. Joseph is great in the spirit. He is great in faith, not because he uttered any words of his own but
above all because he heard the words of the living God. He listened in silence. And he became a
witness of the Divine Mystery. The Word of the living God fell deeply into the soul of that man, that
Upright Man. And we, do we know how to listen to God’s word? Do we know how to absorb it into
the depths of our human “ego”? Do we open our consciences to this word? Do we read Sacred
Scripture? Do we take part in catechesis? We have so much need of faith!
Pope John Paul II
Prayers and Devotions: 365 Daily Meditations
The deeper a soul is bound to God, the more completely surrendered to grace, the stronger will be
its influence on the form of the Church. Conversely, the more an era is engulfed in the night of sin
and estrangement from God, the more it needs souls united to God. And God does not permit a
deficiency. The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step out of the darkest night. But for the
most part the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the decisive turning
points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever
mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points
in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.
St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts
Today I will pray one decade of the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary with my whole heart
and soul, focusing on the mystery and holding Mary’s hand.
Today I will seek silence so that I can talk to Jesus and Mary in my heart.
Introduction to Holy Week
Holy Week is the crowning point of the entire liturgical year. There is no time of year more holy
and filled with graces than this week that we are about to begin.
The Passion of Christ is about to be relived in the living memory of the Church. This doesn’t
mean that we just “remember” what happened as if it were just a historical event that is long
gone and over with. On the contrary, in these sacred liturgies of the Church, we enter back into
an event that is both historical and cosmic, in and outside of time. We can do this because the
Passion of Christ is in time and transcends time. We touch it in every Mass. We are
simultaneously at the Last Supper and on Calvary at every consecration of the bread and wine
into the body and blood of Jesus. It’s not time travel, per se. But it’s something close. We are
really there, in a way that God makes possible through his grace.
Many saints have said that the graces reserved in these days are so great that we can grow
more during Holy Week than during an entire year—if we know how to take advantage of the
opportunities at hand. What are these opportunities? What can we do to grow?
Fervent mental prayer: now, more than ever, give your best to your morning meditation.
Christ told more than one saint that whenever we meditate on a particular mystery of his life,
especially his Passion, we receive particular graces that are tied to that mystery. For example,
when we meditate on the crowning with thorns, he gives us special graces to endure
humiliation with peace and resignation. When we meditate on the third fall, he gives us special
graces to overcome ourselves in our falls, and to keep getting up again with renewed strength.
Contemplating Christ’s Passion changes us.
Frequent Mass and communion: the liturgies of these days are meaningful and profound.
The readings at Mass are chosen with special care by the Church, under the guidance of the
Holy Spirit. And if the Eucharist is always the source and summit of the Church’s life, how much
more in these days leading up to Holy Thursday, when the greatest of sacraments was
instituted for the first time! When you live the Mass during Holy Week, make sure that you pay
special attention at the moment of the consecration. When Christ is lifted up in the host right
after the priest pronounces the words, “This is my body, which will be given up for you,” you
should be able to picture the cross of Christ being raised up, with the Savior of the world
hanging there for you. That’s the meaning of the Mass: it’s Calvary again. It’s Jesus offering
himself for you.
Frequent rosaries: Our Lady needs to accompany us during these holy days of her Son’s
Passion. We can accompany her by praying our rosary with special attention and fervor,
especially the sorrowful mysteries. We have no idea what kind of intercessory power is granted
to us through the praying of the rosary. In a recent exorcism, a demon (who was under
obedience to tell the truth, as it happens in an exorcism) told the priest that the sorrowful
mysteries are particularly powerful against evil. The Church has always told us that Mary is an
extraordinarily effective teacher of goodness and truth. She brings us straight to Christ by her
own “short cut” of love. When we look at Jesus through her eyes and love him through her
heart, we please him and grow much more than if we tried to do it on our own.
Frequent Eucharistic adoration: If ever you do Eucharistic adoration, do it during Holy
Week. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ truly present in his body and blood, soul and divinity. This
is the living fountain of grace; it is Jesus himself who exposes his heart on the altar for us. We
cannot leave him alone in the Garden of Gethsemane; we must accompany him from the very
beginning, staying close to him in his hour of trial, from Gethsemane to Calvary. Through
Eucharistic adoration, we can stand firm and faithful at the foot of the cross, like Mary. We can
quench his thirst, for when Jesus says, “I thirst,” he is thirsting for Eucharistic adorers.
Frequent spontaneous prayers: This is an excellent time to make little spontaneous
prayers throughout the day, such as “Jesus, thank you” or “Jesus, I love you”. You can also make
spiritual communions by asking Christ to come into your heart as if you had just received him
in communion. These are real and efficacious ways of consoling his heart and making grace
triumph in your own soul and in the world.
Frequent sacrifices: The spiritual life is not only about prayer, although it does need prayer
as the engine. We must also be willing to carry our cross with Christ and offer up those
sacrifices he sends us or that we take upon ourselves as a willing participation in his Passion. As
Holy Week begins, it would be a good idea to make particular resolutions to grow in a sacrificial
spirit, especially in the area of charity, but not neglecting the physical sacrifices of unnecessary
comforts and conveniences that our conscience suggests and our spiritual director or guide
A Guide to the Passion of Christ
Holy Week: Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday
Fruit for Holy Week: to look deeply into the life of Christ and to fall in love with him.
Petition for Holy Week: Jesus, I want to love you. Teach me to contemplate you with my heart
so that I can know you, love you, and follow you.
Day 40: Palm Sunday
The Entrance into Jerusalem
The Passion begins, not on the night of the Last Supper, but on the day of Jesus’ entry into
Jerusalem. From a hilltop overlooking the distant city, his disciples hear him say these words:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I
yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you
were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me
again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mt. 23:37-39).
These are the words of one who loves powerfully and sees his love spurned and rejected. He
foresees Israel’s fate. And yet, not too long afterward, he enters this same city as the prophets
had foretold he would: on a donkey, in gentleness, while the people called out “Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel!” (Jn. 12:13). It is interesting
to note that this positive reception was prepared by the witness of the Jews who had seen the
miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead. John tells us that the crowd went out to meet
him as he entered the city because those Jews “continued to testify” (Jn. 12:17), to the point that
the Pharisees threw up their hands in disgust and said, “You see that you are gaining nothing.
Look, the whole world has gone after him” (Jn. 12:19).
But appearances are deceiving. The whole world had not gone after Jesus and he knew very
well that the battle was far from won. Just a few verses later, John tells us that after preaching
to a crowd of Jews, Jesus “left and hid from them. Although he had performed many signs in
their presence they did not believe in him” (Jn. 12:37-38). The root of their unbelief was not
only ignorance, which could be solved by clear teaching, nor was it only the need to be sure that
the message came from God, which could be cleared up by the witness of miracles. Teaching
and miracles would not be enough, because the ignorance and blindness of the people was
caused by something deeper: they were enslaved by the root of sin, which as a consequence
caused their blindness and unbelief. John tells us, “For this reason they could not believe,
because as Isaiah said: ‘He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they might not see
with their eyes and understand with their heart and be converted and I would heal them” (Jn.
As in the case of Pharaoh, blindness and hardness of heart follow upon the sin of pride. And
when a person is imprisoned behind the iron wall of pride, nothing can set them free but the
shedding of blood. The salvation of Jerusalem would not be achieved by preaching or miracles,
but by suffering and sacrifice, by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross.
He knew this as he entered Jerusalem riding on that humble donkey while the crowds shouted
their hosannas. He knew it was the homage of unconverted hearts, and that they could not yet
truly welcome him as their king. Only baptism—his baptism of blood and their baptism by
water and the Holy Spirit—would bring them into his true Kingdom, which is the life of grace.
The rest was all a preparation in outward signs and external show. The truly triumphal entry
would be reserved for after the Resurrection and Pentecost, when his disciples would begin
their work of baptizing all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
And even then, the preaching of the message would have to be accompanied by the shedding of
blood. Through all the centuries of the Church’s life and mission, it remains true that “the blood
of martyrs is the seed of Christians”. The seed must fall into the furrow and die in order to bear
fruit. He who would save his life must lose it. He who would be my disciple must deny himself,
take up his cross every day, and follow me.
I have a part in this mission too, because Christ gave it to me in the sacrament of Confirmation.
When I was confirmed, I pledged myself as a soldier in his army. I said I would bear witness to
his name and be his witness to the world, cost what it may. I said I would not be ashamed of his
name or of the cross he bore. I said a stronger, more mature “yes!” to my Christian faith, with an
enthusiasm and joy born of the Holy Spirit. By my Confirmation, I am marked once and forever
with an indelible seal that nothing can erase from my soul: I am Christ’s. I am led by his Holy
Spirit and I am ready to fulfill his mission in the world.
As Christ enters Jerusalem, I want to stand among the crowd to welcome him, not with an
empty “hosanna” based on human enthusiasm, but with a “hosanna” that comes from my life of
grace. He truly is my King and I can actually be there in this moment of his bittersweet
homecoming. I know, Jesus, that this is the moment when John’s words are especially true: “He
was in the world and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He
came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (Jn. 1:10-11).
Behind the palms and praises of Palm Sunday are the whips and mockery of Good Friday. It
won’t be long before the “Hosanna!” turns to “Crucify him!” Jesus is very aware of this fact. He
needs your company now more than ever. Tell him that it’s worth it. Not everyone will turn
away. Here is a soul who wants to walk with him every step of the way.
Learn how to be patient in enduring the faults of others, remembering that you yourself have
many which others have to put up with. If you cannot make yourself be what you would like, how
can you expect anything to be as you would like? We wish to see perfections in others, but do not
correct our own faults.
Thomas A. Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Today on Palm Sunday, I will unite myself to Jesus by making three spiritual communions
during the day. I will remember his mysteries throughout the day.
Today I will make an act of forgiveness of anyone that I have had trouble getting along with.
I will live Holy Week with a clean heart.
Day 41: Monday of Holy Week
The Last Supper
In the Upper Room, it seems as if time is standing still. We have not experienced the Last
Supper in all its sacred intimacy, but we have experienced moments in life when the presence
of God unites us in a special way, and we feel keenly that this moment will never come again,
that it will never be like this again. It is a privilege to pass through such moments together,
when everyone is united by the awareness that what we are living together is so beautiful, so
sacred, so important.
The death of John Paul II was one such moment. The whole world was watching, and we knew
that this was history. This was the death of our father, and not only the father of Catholics, but a
father whose love had touched the whole world. We knew that the silence and the prayer in St.
Peter’s square was for the whole world. A saint was passing from this world into eternity, and
God was with us as he crossed over that threshold. We have never felt the presence of God and
of the sacred on the worldwide level as intensely as we felt it in those days. It was a momentous
occasion, but entirely free of pretence, pomp, and circumstance. It needed no decoration. It
seemed that the Pope brought the whole world with him to heaven’s door.
In the Last Supper, Jesus’ heart seems to expand and take in the whole world with all his future
generations of apostles and missionaries and consecrated souls… but at the same time, it seems
to be just for the apostles. He is opening his heart to them like never before. John tells us, “He
loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). He was already pouring
himself out in one gesture of love after another—love made service, suffering, giving, and dying.
He leaves the room and returns, clothed like a slave. They have never seen him like this before,
dressed in nothing but a white towel at his waist. He is barechested and he carries a bowl of
water in his hands. Then he kneels at Peter’s feet. How mortifying for poor Peter, who tries to
protest and is quickly silenced. Watch his hands as he smoothes the water over their rough,
dirty, travel-weary feet. He knows those feet so well. He will soon be sending them to the four
corners of the world. But for now, they are still with him and there is still so much to suffer, so
many shocks and surprises that he foresees. One by one; his hands are gentle but efficient, and
he is silently praying for each one. This is their sacrament of Confession, given for the first
time—only one apostle closes his heart to the saving grace given in the water in his hands.
Jesus is purifying them before giving them the sacrament of Holy Orders. They do not know it
yet, but soon they will be priests.
After the washing of the feet, he reclines again at table. His face is radiant and suffused with joy,
and the apostles can’t help gazing at him in wonder, while John leans in close against the
Master’s heart. He has found the one he loves—not a sensual love, but the love of a soul for his
God. He has long realized that Jesus is the Son of God. Every word that Jesus speaks is engraved
on his heart. His Gospel will be different. He is the first to capture the divinity of Jesus, and the
last to write about it; but he remembers everything. He remembers the essential message:
“Little children, love one another.” He never forgot those words. Every mystery of Jesus’
suffering is like an image under an overlay title: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
The images change while the message remains. Tortures, beatings, scourging: “Love as I have
loved.” Slander, false testimony, insults, mockery: “Love as I have loved.” No limits. This is what
love means at the very extreme. This is what Jesus did. This is what I must do. Never to close
the heart. Never to give in to the pressure of hate. Always “yes” like the Mother, “fiat” like Mary.
“Let it be done to me according to your word,” not just in the garden of promise, but also in the
night of suffering. Love says “yes” unconditionally, to the point of death.
Now, in the silence of this Upper Room, John watches Jesus’ hands as he takes up the bread. His
hands are trembling, not from weakness or fear, but from the very intensity of his love. He says
to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I shall
not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the Kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:15). I have been waiting
for this moment for a long time. It is now, my beloved ones, that I am going to pour myself out
for you. You don’t understand me now, but you will later, because the Holy Spirit will teach you.
He then takes the bread in his sacred hands. He blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. Only
when each one holds it in his hands does he pronounce the words of consecration: “This is my
body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” For the first time, they are all
concelebrating a Mass. They are all priests, anointed by Jesus the High Priest. Next comes the
cup: he takes the wine and says the words, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which
will be shed for you” (Lk. 22:19-20). They all drink of the wine made blood. What a profound
joy for Jesus that these chosen ones partake of his body and blood! But what a profound,
intimate sorrow to see the blackened heart of Judas receiving his most precious gifts in vain.
Jesus pours himself out to Judas in total humility and openness, and meets with a hardened,
closed heart. There is no acceptance of the mercy Jesus would so willingly give him. Judas turns
The Last Supper: a night of deep self-giving marked with deep sorrow. A night of friendship and
of betrayal, of a love so profound that it cannot be expressed in words alone; the words have to
become a body, and the body must be consumed.
The Last Supper lives on in every Mass. I can let my heart dream during the consecration, and
imagine that instead of the human priest, I see Jesus himself standing at the altar. It is Jesus’
hands that take up the chalice and say, “This is my body”—and when he says those words, it is
Jesus that I see in the sacred host. I am not looking at bread. I am looking at God, at the same
Jesus Christ who walked in Galilee and suffered and died for me on Calvary.
And when I receive him, I am receiving his whole heart, for Jesus does not give himself in half-
measures. He gives it all. Do I?
Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of "neighbor" is now
universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to
a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical
commitment her and now.
Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est
Today I will foresee and plan a time to do Eucharistic adoration during Holy Week, not just
for a few minutes, but for at least one hour. During that time, I will read the account of the
Passion in one of the four Gospels.
This week I will make every effort to go to Mass more frequently, even if it implies more
driving than usual.
Day 42: Tuesday of Holy Week
The figure of Judas is disturbing for everyone who wonders how it could be possible that one of
Jesus’ chosen ones could fail so badly. How could one chosen to be so close to Christ turn out to
be such a dark figure, so corrupted by insincerity, greed, and treachery? If Judas could fall, is
anyone safe? How do I know I am not a potential Judas too?
These worries may come, and it can help to stop and take a closer look at the mystery of Judas’
betrayal—not only to understand the weakness of man, but also better to understand the heart
First of all Christ chose Judas to be one of his disciples. Judas didn’t just latch onto the Twelve as
an annoying pest that they couldn’t shake off. He was one of the Twelve whom the Father had
given him, and he was chosen after a long night in prayer. We wonder, though: if Judas had an
authentic vocation, then what happened? How is it possible that he failed? How is it possible
that one so richly gifted with Christ’s close company and friendship could betray him for thirty
miserable pieces of silver?
Perhaps the question of betrayal, of stabbing a brother in the back, could be illuminated by the
story of Cain, who killed his brother Abel. Judas is similar to Cain in one respect: the weakness
was there in his nature, the temptation was waiting just at the door like a lion, and the warning
from God was also there. He could have resisted. The grace and the help of God were there, but
he freely chose to go over to the dark side.
In the story of Cain, the Scripture suggests it was a classic case of envy, fruit of pride. “The Lord
looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly
resented this and was crestfallen. So the Lord said to Cain: ‘Why are you so resentful and
crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the
door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master” (Gen. 4:4-7).
Why was God not pleased with Cain’s offering, while he accepted Abel’s? Perhaps it was
because what God looked at was not the offering in itself, but the heart of the one who offered.
In another place, the Lord says, “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice” and “Obedience is better than
sacrifice”. Mercy and obedience are attitudes of the heart; they are profound attitudes which
shape and direct action, and this means more to God than a burnt ram or a chicken.
The book of Sirach seems to be giving a stern warning to the likes of Cain, who was a farmer,
when it says, “Do no evil, and evil will not overtake you. Sow not in the furrows of injustice, lest
you harvest it sevenfold. Say not, ‘He will appreciate my many gifts; the Most High will accept
my offerings.’ Plot no mischief against your brother, nor against your friend and companion.
More and more, humble your pride; what awaits man is worms” (Sir. 7:1, 3, 9, 12, 17).
Cain is a mystery. How does one brother surrender to evil while another perseveres in good? It
seems to be a matter of many little choices which lead up to a general state of being. Maybe Cain
committed all of the faults mentioned in the rest of Sirach 7: impatience in prayers, neglecting
to give alms, laughing at an embittered man, delighting in telling lie after lie, hating hard work
such as farming, thinking himself better than his fellow men, and indulging his pride. These are
“little things” which build up with time. They express and confirm a person in his pride, and
pride is capable of corrupting a man to the very core of his heart.
Perhaps this is what happened with Judas: like Cain, there were many small transgressions that
added up. With Judas, infidelity was no longer a matter of occasional falls; it had become a way
of life. Because of his consistency in committing many small acts of infidelity, he had become an
Sometimes people say that Peter and Judas were very similar except for the attitude of trust
that Peter had and Judas lacked. Maybe, but it seems unlikely. If we look at their psychology and
attitudes, Peter and Judas are really worlds apart. Peter fell out of weakness in a sudden
moment that caught him by surprise. Judas’ crime was premeditated; he had arranged it all in
advance in a process that entailed many steps and a lot of thinking. A sin that is committed with
advance planning is on a totally different level than a sin that comes and catches a man by
Also, Peter was an honest man whose faults were very human: he thought too much in terms of
comfort and esteem and honor, as is natural. But when he was corrected by Jesus, Peter
immediately responded and obeyed. There is no dark simmering of resentment in Peter. What
you see is what you get. He’s blunt, honest, open, and sincere. He’s willing to change. He makes
mistakes and sometimes he’s a blockhead, but then he responds. Just look at Peter when he
protested about the washing of the feet. Jesus corrects him and he instantly goes to the other
extreme: “Not only my feet, Lord, but my whole body also!” Peter sincerely loves Christ, but is
occasionally weak just like all of us. His heart and his intentions are good.
Judas is in a different ballpark. We know that he was not an honest man, because John tells us
that he held the common purse and he used to steal from it on a regular basis. There was a
habit of dishonesty and insincerity that had been going on for a long time. We also know that
Judas was given many opportunities to repent and that he refused them all. In the washing of
the feet, Christ was silently inviting Judas to repentance, but Judas rejected the grace. In the
breaking of the bread, Jesus offered Judas the choice morsel dipped in sauce, which was a
traditional Jewish gesture of friendship and trust. He was telling Judas with this gesture, “It’s
not too late. You can still come back to me.” Judas took the morsel but rejected the grace. He
was given opportunity after opportunity, and he rejected them all. This takes a much deeper
malice of heart than what we see in Peter’s weakness. There is an element of knowledge and
rejection in Judas that we should never underestimate, since part of what makes up a mortal sin
is the degree of knowledge and consent of the will, in addition to the gravity of the matter. The
more a person knows the evil he is doing, the greater the malice, the deeper the evil.
Of course, at the end Judas is totally unnerved by the course of events after the betrayal. He
repents of his crime, throwing the money away in remorse. Does this mean he regrets hurting
Christ? Could it be the beginning of a conversion? We don’t know what happened in his soul; we
only know that he hanged himself and that his body was buried in the potter’s field, in
fulfillment of a prophecy.
The conversion of a Judas takes a miracle. It is very hard for a habitually unfaithful person to
come back to the light and say, “I confess! I will change!” because his sinful attitudes and habits
have become tightly bound up with his personality. Sin has ingrained itself into his very being.
Christ is always capable of separating the sinner from his pride, but it will necessarily be a
deeply painful and humbling process, and this is extremely difficult for the proud person to
accept. It’s about as difficult as getting a camel to go through the eye of a needle because the
unfaithful, proud person has to come back to Christ not just in one grand gesture, but in a
constant attitude of reparation and love which is confirmed in small actions over and over
again. To live out such a miracle, usually the person has to be willing to let grace in, even if only
by a tiny crack. It doesn’t seem that Judas was willing to open his soul to this process.
Psalm 55 gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ sorrow at the betrayal of Judas, a man whom he loved and
had chosen to be one of his closest followers. The Psalmist writes, “If an enemy had reviled me,
that I could bear; if my foe had viewed me with contempt, from that I could hide. But it was you,
my other self, my comrade and friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in
procession in the house of God.” The Psalmist turns to God for justice. “Let death take them by
surprise; let them go down alive to Sheol, for evil is in their homes and hearts. For they will not
mend their ways; they have no fear of God. They strike out at friends and go back on their
promises. Softer than butter is their speech, but war is in their hearts. But you, God, will bring
them down to the pit of destruction” (Psalm 55:13-16, 20-22, 24).
Jesus, speaking about his imminent betrayal by one of the Twelve, says: “The Son of Man indeed
goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would
have been better for that man if he had never been born” At those words, Judas asks with
feigned innocence, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” and Jesus answers, “You have said so” (cf. Mt.
26:24-25). The fate of the betrayer is predicted clearly in these words, and Jesus tells Judas
plainly that he is the one. The Gospels seem consistent with the Psalm.
After looking more closely at the sin of Judas and at the attitudes that prepared the way for
such a sin, we should be less inclined to unfounded fears of becoming a Judas. It is not
something that just happened to him all of a sudden by surprise, like falling out of bed in the
middle of the night. The process of becoming a traitor was a slow one that entailed many
deliberate steps, starting with little infidelities. This can give fearful people a little more peace;
we are not in danger of becoming a Judas overnight.
But at the same time, it should also be a healthy warning not to underestimate the importance
of truthfulness in the little things of daily life. Everything we do in life can be an occasion to
express our love for Christ. Little things can be our stepping stones to sanctity and greater
love—if we use them wisely!
To this end, a nightly examination of conscience is a helpful and practical means to ensure that
those “little things” are really an upward path and not a downward slide. Take five minutes
every night to mentally review your day with Christ, checking how faithful you were to his will
for you in your ordinary duties, in the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, in your charity towards
others, and in your effort at prayer. Check also how well you are working to overcome any
weak areas that tend to drag you down or become occasions of sin. Then make a simple
resolution for the next day. That’s it.
St. Ignatius of Loyola says that if we do this every night with complete honesty before God, then
it would be very difficult for us to slip into a bad or unfaithful conscience.
God never, in any case, forces anyone to be saved. God accepts man’s freedom. He is no magician,
who will in the end wipe out everything that has happened and wheel out his happy ending. He is a
true father; a creator who assents to freedom, even when it is used to reject him. That is why God’s
all-embracing desire to save people does not involve the actual salvation of all men. He allows us
the power to refuse. God loves us; we need only to summon up the humility to allow ourselves to be
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
Today I will start the habit of doing a short examination of conscience every night. My
fundamental questions will be: “Am I doing the will of God? Am I living charity?”
Today I will look for opportunities to humble myself before God and others: by doing the
tasks that no one else wants to do, by putting myself in the last place, by taking the blame for
another person, by not justifying myself, by making a sincere apology, etc.—whatever the Holy
Day 43: Wednesday of Holy Week
In the House of Herod
As the night of the Passion continues to unfold, Jesus is dragged from one petty kinglet to
another, subjected to mockery and abuse, commanded to speak, bend over, stand up, walk,
stand still… and he obeys. The face of Jesus is covered in blood and spittle. One eye is sealed
shut by the blows of a gauntleted hand, and his lips are already cracked and dry with thirst.
In his heart, he is praying to his Father.
He is praying as he is led to the house of Herod, where he is made to stand in the midst of the
court like a strange circus animal or a traveling freak show. Herod questions him at some
length, but Jesus answers nothing. One gets the impression that Jesus withdrew deep inside
himself, far from the breath of degradation and sensual perversion that filled the house of
Herod. He is absolute purity, and he is already being immersed in the swamp of sickness and
evil that is Herod’s household.
The mockery never stops. Luke tells us that “Even Herod and his soldiers treated him
contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back
to Pilate” (Lk. 23:11). Why do they mock the only upright man in the room? They are the ones
who are twisted; he is the one who is innocent and pure, like a straight, green tree.
But this is the psychology of evil. When man is evil, he exports his evil onto another, and then
he pours out all his self-loathing and hatred onto the scapegoat. It is strange how human nature
responds to the mystery of wickedness within; one would not believe the depths of cruelty that
man is capable of, but the history records from Auschwitz and the other concentration camps
tell us that man is capable of much greater evil than we realize, especially when prodded on by
the devil. A man who is immersed in evil cannot help but loathe himself to the very depths of
his being. The Herods of today’s world both love and loathe themselves; the more they love
themselves by granting themselves sensual pleasures and vicious pastimes, the more they also
loathe the emptiness within and the sense of disgust that can never be completely eliminated.
The Christian of today’s world follows an opposite process. They deny themselves; they die to
themselves through self-abnegation, putting Christ first. They live out chastity according to
their state of life, practicing self-control and discipline. They are moderate in their pleasures
and they do not live beyond their means. They obey their conscience, live within the limits of
natural and divine law, and they are at peace. They can wake up in the morning with a clear
conscience, look in the mirror and feel at ease, and fall asleep like a child. They may suffer to
keep their conduct upright, and they may have to make many sacrifices, but at the end of the
day, they can be happy with themselves. They know they are living in the truth and trying to do
good to others. They feel at peace with God, and since happiness is found only in peace of
conscience, they are serenely happy. All is well. They may suffer, but in their inmost core they
are always at peace.
Jesus stands in the house of Herod as a witness of goodness and justice. He is a sign of chastity
in a world that has become crazed for illicit pleasures. And he is not in the house of Herod by
accident, as an unwilling victim who has been brought somewhere he didn’t want to go. Jesus
chose to go there. From all eternity, he foresaw that his mission would bring him to stand in the
midst of Herod’s world as a sign of contradiction. He knew that they would mock him and robe
him in their own finery as a gesture of contempt. He chose to be there because he wanted to
redeem them from their self-loathing and their sterile self-love. He allowed them to export all
their sin and hatred onto his shoulders because he was seeking the lost sheep, like a shepherd
who goes deep into a black forest in search of the little one who is in deep trouble.
Somewhere, in all of that noise and commotion, Jesus was saving a soul. And he is still saving
souls today in our modern day underworld of strip clubs, and places of prostitution, drug abuse,
pornography, and sodomy. He is saving homosexuals, transvestites, and other victims of a sub-
culture that uses and abuses people. By his silence and his chastity, Jesus is rescuing his
children from the breath of evil and enslavement. He lets himself be mocked and hated because
he knows that this is the price of ransom and he is willing to pay it.
In this meditation, accompany Jesus in the house of Herod. Look at him and enter into his
prayer. See how in his silence he is calling out the names of his lost children; he is telling them,
“I am here for you. I have come looking for you. Let me rescue you from this place. You don’t
belong here. I have a better house for you, and I love you. Come home with me.”
Let your prayer be an extension of Christ’s saving mission. With him, here and now, you can
change someone’s life forever. You can pull them out of a life of darkness and obtain the grace
for them to hear his voice. Pray with Jesus for his children and yours.
As far as I am concerned, the greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved. The greatest
suffering is also having no one, forgetting what an intimate, truly human relationship is, not
knowing what it means to be loved, not having a family or friends.
In Her Own Words
Today I will take time for some serious intercessory prayer for those souls who are caught
in habits of sin that they can’t seem to shake. I will get a group together to pray and carry out
some kind of an apostolic resolution to help them.
Today when I am out and about, I will be a missionary for Christ by mentioning that it is
Holy Week and that this is an incredibly sacred time full of special graces. I will try to bring
others to Christ and to the liturgical celebrations in my parish.
Day 44: Thursday of Holy Week
A Choice Between Two Sons
After the mockery at Herod’s house, Jesus is brought back to the praetorium for the final
judgment. Pilate does not want to carry the full burden of responsibility for condemning an
innocent man. He doesn’t know what or who Jesus is, but he senses that he is no mere rabble
rouser, and he is certainly not as bad as the chief priests and rulers make him out to be. As far
as he can see, it seems to be a case of religious envy.
So Pilate stands up in front of an assembled courtyard and declares his decision: “You brought
this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my
investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have
brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been
committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him” (Lk. 14-16). It
seems to his mind a reasonable solution. Jesus is innocent of any formal crime, so he will not
subject him to execution. But, to placate their hatred, he will have him scourged. Perhaps it will
humble this Jesus, whoever he is, and teach him a lesson or two about having proper respect for
Roman power. Pilate considers this a suitable compromise.
But he did not reckon with the strength of hatred circulating like venom through the crowd,
which is fast becoming a mob. The people begin shouting out, “Away with this man! Release
Barabbas to us.” It was the Roman custom to release one prisoner every year on the feast of the
Passover, and Barabbas was in prison for rebellion and for murder. In answer to their demand,
Barabbas is hauled up out of prison onto the balcony of the praetorium for the crowd to see.
And there they stand side by side: two men who are also two sons. Both have the surname
“Jesus”: one is Jesus Christ and the other is Jesus Barabbas, as Matthew’s Gospel tells us was the
revolutionary’s full name.2
The name “Jesus” means “God saves”, while “Barabbas” is a rather generic name which means “son of the father”.
(“Bar” means “son of” and “abbas” is a cognate of the word “abba”, which is child’s term for “father”.) So, altogether, the
name “Jesus Barabbas” means “God saves the son of the father”.
Side by side, they are Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael. One, a Son of God; the
other, a son of the devil. Jesus’ words to the Pharisees could apply to Barabbas as well: “You
belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a
murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him.
When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).
This is the choice that is presented to the crowd: a murderer and a liar or a miracle-worker who
raised dead men to life and taught the truth. Which do they prefer? Who deserves to live? Their
shouting swells into a rhythmic chant: “Bar-abbas! Bar-abbas!” Give us the murderer! Pilate
shouts out again to the crowd, gesturing to Jesus: “What evil has this man done? I found him
guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him” (Lk. 23:22).
The chanting only grows louder until it reverberates off of the stone walls of the praetorium,
and to Pilate it seems that the shouting is so loud it could reach all the way to Rome.
Pilate curses and throws up his hands. He sends Jesus away to be scourged, hoping in this way
to buy time. Too much is at stake in this matter. He cannot permit his authority in Judea to
become even more precarious than it already is.
So Jesus is slapped into chains and led away for the Roman scourging. A few hours later he
returns, trembling uncontrollably in all his limbs, leaving bloody footprints behind him. His
body is one big wound with strips of flesh dangling from his macerated back. He is wearing a
crown of thorns and his hair is dripping blood. As he is brought near, Pilate can hear his breath
like a dry rattle in his chest. To Pilate, he is already a dead man walking. Surely this will be
enough to satisfy the envy of the rulers and priests.
He stands Jesus before the crowd and shouts out “Ecce homo!” – “Behold the man!” (Jn. 19:5).
The chief priests and the guards immediately respond, “Crucify him, crucify him!” In
exasperation, Pilate shouts back, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him”
(Jn. 19:6). The people respond, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God” (Jn. 19:7).
At these words, Pilate is afraid. In spite of his hardened pragmatism, he is a superstitious man
who feels the need to appease the unseen gods. He draws Jesus aside into the praetorium and
questions him privately: “Where are you from?” No answer. Jesus’ eyes are fixed on the floor,
and he seems to have withdrawn deep into himself. Yet it is obvious to Pilate that he is fully in
possession of his senses. Pilate is utterly astonished by this man’s self-control. Any ordinary
mortal would be sobbing hysterically, begging and pleading on his knees for mercy. Pilate
presses his point: “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?” (Jn. 19:10).
At these words, Jesus’ eyes rise up like a slow sword to meet Pilate’s frantic gaze. Behind the
blood and the bruises, there is lucidity, fire, and unspeakable depth in those eyes. There is full
knowledge and iron decision. Pilate is a soldier and he knows an indomitable will when he sees
one. This man knows exactly who he is and where he is going. He knows what is going to
happen to him and he chooses not to resist. Then he speaks: “You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason, the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin” (Jn. 19:11). Pilate’s bowels suddenly go weak. To hide his fear, he spins
around on his heel, barking out orders to his soldiers.
He storms back out onto the balcony to continue the futile negotiations, but while he was away
the Jews had agreed on a strategy that would have him cornered. Now they pull out their trump
card: “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king
opposes Caesar” (Jn. 19:12). Now they are speaking his language; now they are touching his
weak spot and putting him into an impossible dilemma. It’s checkmate and they know it.
Pilate knows it too, so he plays the only card he has left. He resorts to democracy.
He brings Jesus out and seats him on the judgment seat in the place called the Stone Pavement,
in the noonday which beats down relentlessly and rises up in heat waves off the pavement.
Jesus is utterly exhausted, and his head begins spinning. He wants to vomit but he cannot.
Once again, Pilate calls out, “Behold your king!” but this time he is not asking for mercy. He
knows what their response will be. He is mocking them, pushing their buttons just as they had
pushed his. Their response is immediate: “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate
feigns surprise. “Shall I crucify your king?” He knows how much their envy hurts and he wants
to rub it in. They wanted to play hardball by bringing Caesar into the picture, and now he’s
going to give it right back to them. He gets the answer he was fishing for from the chief priests:
“We have no king but Caesar” (Jn. 19:14-15). “Ah,” he says, “that’s more like it.” An ironic smile
flashes across his thin lips.
Pilate glances over at Jesus, who sits on the judgment seat, trembling and parched in the heat.
He feels a stab of remorse, but convinces himself that he cannot take responsibility for saving
an innocent man when the whole province would rise up in rebellion. He turns again to the
people and says, “I wash my hands of the matter. If you want to crucify him, it’s your
responsibility, not mine.” Then he calls for a bowl of water to make the gesture clear to them: I
am not responsible. The people cry out even louder, “Let his blood be on us and on our
children!” (Mt. 27:25). They sense that Pilate is about to give them what they want. The cry for
blood gets stronger and stronger over the pavement. Jesus sits in the middle of it all as a
Pilate shakes the water from his hands and snaps, “Take him away and let him be crucified, for
such is their will. But first bring me a tablet and write on it, This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of
the Jews. Write it in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek so that everyone who passes by understands.
That will show them to pay their allegiance to Caesar. And if they complain, tell them that what
I have written, I have written.” And so it was done.
It is important for us to remember that these events really happened in history. There really
was a man named Pontius Pilate, whose governance over Judea is duly accounted for in the
Roman histories. There was also a man named Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, who submitted to
the wrath of his people. And there were Jewish leaders at that time who called out for his death
and insisted until their will prevailed.
But their will prevailed only because Jesus himself—in union with his Father—willed it to be
so. He chose to submit himself to the rejection of the people and to a democratic exercise of
injustice, where the power of numbers overrode the power of truth. He chose to pay the price
for Pilate’s cowardice and instinct for political self-preservation. It was no accident; this was
not something that spun out of control and took on its own momentum. It was the will of God.
Jesus wanted it to be this way because he wanted to show us how wrongly man judges when he
judges his God. Man’s judgment of God is the hour of darkness, when lies prevail over truth and
murder is committed in the name of justice. It is an hour that is permitted by the agnosticism
and cowardice of the authorities who hide their inaction under the excuse of uncertainty. The
cynical or simply skeptical question “What is truth?” justifies a refusal to act. Ignorance and
omission walk hand in hand.
In the case of Pilate, a practical, hardened, pragmatic men who did what was necessary to stay
in power, truth was essentially irrelevant. A Roman procurator was not a philosopher. He was a
man of action whose goals were unapologetically clear: power, control, stability, wealth. Roman
senators who had the luxury of leisure could read Cicero and discuss truth all they wanted, but
Pilate was not of their breed. He had no time for truth, or so he thought.
In our times, the question of truth has also become irrelevant to many people, but for different
reasons. Some assume that we cannot know the truth about anything. Others fear that affirming
something as true would be arrogant because it would imply that others make mistakes. (This
is ludicrous. Of course people can be mistaken in their beliefs!) Others simply don’t care. They
have other priorities and goals to achieve.
We should not forget the image of Christ on trial, sitting on the judgment seat. Who are we to
say, as Nietzsche dared, that “God is dead” or to say, as another modern philosopher did, “God
does not exist, and if he does exist, he does not belong”? These judgments of God are the
judgments of dead men who judge the “Way, the Truth, and the Life”.
How do I judge Christ in my own life? Is he the Lord and Master of my life or do I try to submit
him to my own ways of seeing things, my own will, my own decisions? Do I judge God or do I let
him judge me? Who is in charge? Am I really on the side of his voice?
The men who are shouting and demanding the death of Jesus are not utterly evil. Many of them, on
the day of Pentecost, will feel “cut to the heart” when Peter will say to them: “Jesus of Nazareth, a
man attested to you by God… you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law”. But at
that moment they are caught up in the crowd. They are shouting because everyone else is
shouting, and they are shouting the same thing that everyone else is shouting. And in this way,
justice is trampled underfoot by weakness, cowardice, and fear of the dictate of the ruling mindset.
The quiet voice of conscience is drowned out by the cries of the crowd. Evil draws its power from
indecision and concern for what other people think.
Pope Benedict XVI
Way of the Cross (1st station)
Today is Holy Thursday, the day of the Eucharist and the priesthood. I will participate in my
parish’s liturgy with deep fervor, living every second of the Mass as if I were there at the Last
Today I will make special sacrifices for priests, especially my own parish priest and my
Day 45: Friday of Holy Week
Consolation on the Way of the Cross
Good Friday is the day of the Lord’s Passion, and one of the traditional acts of piety on this day
is the Way of the Cross, which commemorates Christ’s walk of agony to the place of his
execution. In this meditation, we can accompany him by borrowing the shoes of three people
who consoled him along the way: Mary, Simon of Cyrene, and Veronica.
Let’s go back to Jerusalem’s narrow streets in the bright, relentless glare of the midday sun.
Jesus has been scourged, crowned with thorns, condemned, and burdened with the weight of
the cross. He is walking under his heavy burden, one painful step at a time, and each breath
burns his lungs like fire. It is exhausting and his head is throbbing with pain and dehydration.
The crown of thorns is like a circlet of nails digging into his scalp, rubbing against the bone,
almost piercing his brain. Agony, agony, thirst. He falls into the dust and the cross comes
clattering down beside him.
What thoughts flashed through his mind as he lay there, the crowd spinning above him, noise
and insults cascading down upon him? He felt our temptation to stay fallen and not get up
again, to let the sweet numbness take over and surrender to the weight of gravity. How often
one sin can lead to another because we do not get up again quickly! Our weakness was pulling
on him so strongly. He struggled to rise to his feet, thinking of us by name.
And it was there, as he knelt in the dust, that he saw her face, white with anguish, coming
toward him through the crowd. Mary. His dove. She was more than his mother; she was his
perfect disciple, the Queen for whom he had reserved the place of honor at his right hand. In
this place of exile, she was a woman among other women—although possessed of a mysterious
beauty that was usually veiled from the eyes of men. She was beautiful in an unconscious way,
totally devoid of all vanity. Her eyes, usually serene, innocent, and wise, were now filled with
silent agony. It was as if there were only one person in the universe for her, and that was her
Son struggling under the beam of his cross. She slipped past the guards and knelt before him,
reaching her white hands up to his face. With indescribable tenderness, she caressed his
wounded cheeks and kissed his forehead, cradling his bloody head in both hands. He closed his
eyes and opened them to look only upon her—a fleeting moment of consolation when a
mother’s love made all the shadows disappear. I am here, she said with her heart speaking
through her hands and her eyes. He understood her. He always had. And now his heart lifted to
his Father with a new surge of strength: Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will. He stood up
again, heroically, under our cross. Their eyes met again and she read his silent message: Thank
This station of the cross is for us, too. Mary wants to take us by the hand and bring us with her
to meet her Son just after his first fall. She knows that this Station has special graces of strength
for sinners who fall and struggle to stand again. She is there at his side and ours, a beautiful ally
whose company gives renewed strength to do what is right. Thank you, Mary, for your
company. As you consoled him, you console me. Hold me close to you always.
Then came Simon of Cyrene. He didn’t want to get mixed up in this ugly, messy affair. He had
two children, Alexander and Rufus, and he was just trying to get them home safely after a hectic
day of shopping in the marketplace for the Passover meal ingredients. Their mother would be
worried if there were any sort of delay. He bowed his head to avoid notice and shuttled the two
children quickly through the crowd with their grocery bags of bitter spices and herbs.
But then the procession took an unexpected turn and he found himself in the middle of it all. An
exhausted, shockingly bloody man stood in front of him, his torso heaving for breath as he
paused in the middle of the street. The man wore a crown of thorns, and every inch of his body
was bloody. Bad news. Simon backed away, trying to avoid this horrifying spectacle.
Too late. A soldier cornered him: “You! Help him carry his cross!” Simon shook his head – “No,
I’m not the one. I have to get home. I—”. The Roman soldier would have none of it. He shoved
Simon closer to Jesus and forced him to pick up the cross. “Carry it! Help him!” There was no
use arguing. Too many spears and daggers unsheathed to even think of refusing. Simon
glowered after the soldier and reluctantly shouldered his part of the cross. Then he looked
more closely at the man next to him.
Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, he had heard of him before. He had heard of the miracles. And this man…
could he be the same one? He could barely see his face because of the hair, matted with blood,
that hung down on both sides of his face. They began moving again and before too long, the
cross began to wobble and fall, and Simon could not catch it in time. Jesus fell headlong into the
dust and the cross would have fallen on top of him if Simon hadn’t caught it in time. As he
caught the cross and kept it from falling, he got a good look at Jesus’ face in the full light of the
sun. His eyes were closed from sheer exhaustion, although he was struggling to rise again like a
champion boxer who has just been clobbered into a pulp in the center of the ring. At the sight of
such a valiant effort, Simon pushed the cross aside and reached out to help Jesus overcome the
weight of his own body… but he didn’t know where to touch the man; he was one big wound.
He looked into the face of Jesus, as if to say, “I want to help you but I don’t know how.”
Eye contact. Electricity as he felt the wordless message given from heart to heart: “Yes, I receive
you”. Something inside Simon began to change. Why did the eyes of this condemned man
suddenly set him free inside? Why did he feel like his entire life had just been given a hand by
God? He felt a fire burning in his heart, a desire to give something back, and so he shouldered
his part of the cross with renewed zeal. I am willing to walk the extra mile with you. I will set
aside my own plans to follow you and carry your burdens. I will suffer with you if it means I can
be this close to you. Ask me. Here I am, Lord. Send me. And so they walked on together, falling
and rising together, sharing the same beatings and insults along the way of the cross.
This station is for us too. Christ wants to need us; he wants to experience our help in his hour of
weakness, especially in others. He is hiding in them, and their falling is his falling too because
he lives in radical solidarity with other people. I may want to walk by, but Christ wants me to be
the Good Samaritan, the Simon of Cyrene, just as he has been so often for me—directly and
through other people. Christ, what is the cross that you want me to carry with you? Am I
running away from it? Help me to face it and take it up freely, because I want to be with you and
I am never so close to you as when I am helping carry your cross.
And then comes the next drop of consolation: Veronica with her veil. She has been waiting for
him for a while now, guided by an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Her hands are trembling but
she is trusting that when the moment comes, the Holy Spirit will give her the strength to do the
good deed. Here he comes. She readies herself.
Around the corner comes the procession, with Jesus in the lead. There is a momentary pause as
the soldiers remove some obstacles from the path and deal with some unruly members of the
mob that presses around them on all sides. Seeing her window of opportunity, Veronica darts
through the crowd and slips past the sweaty backs of the soldiers. Here. Now. She holds out the
Jesus’ eyes meet hers without delay. He knows her. He has been waiting for her. He accepts the
gift in his bloody hands and presses the white linen to his face. The white cloth is a part of the
Jewish preparation for death, and he can say of her as he said of another woman who poured
ointment on his head at Bethany while he dined in the house of Simon the leper: “She has done
a beautiful thing to me. She has done what she could. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is
proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mk. 14:6, 8,
9). The unnamed woman who poured expensive ointment from an alabaster jar onto Jesus’
head did it in preparation for burial, and Jesus praised her gesture. In the sixth station, this
other unnamed woman, whom Tradition calls “Veronica” because the name (“true icon”)
reflects the image on the facial veil, has the same intuition: she recognizes that this man is
worth her greatest sacrifices, and that her heart longs to give him everything. She will risk her
life to give him even a second of consolation.
Can I give my life just to console Jesus? Am I afraid to make this gesture of spreading out my life
for him as a blank sheet, as a veil for him to imprint the image of his face? Could I give him the
expensive ointment of my time and my dreams? Do I recognize that the ointment which could
have been given “to the poor” is best given to Jesus, who is the poorest of all in human
affection? Who loves Jesus today? Who really listens to him? Does he really have many
Perhaps the bitterness along the way of the cross for Jesus today is the lack of company, of
consolation from hearts that are not seeking just to receive, but to give. Console Jesus. Give him
the warmth of your love, your company, your protection and consolation. He is waiting for you
there along the way of the cross, especially today, on Good Friday, as he walks to his execution.
Go with him the whole day. Don’t leave his side. He needs you close to him through your
spiritual communions and spontaneous prayers. Tell him every hour on the hour: “I’m with you.
I love you. Come and find refuge in my heart, Jesus. Come in as if I had just received you in holy
communion. Let me give you a resting place in my heart!”
It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for
accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning throug union with Christ, who suffered
with infinite love.
Pope Benedict XVI
Today I will remember the Passion of Christ all day long and make constant spiritual
Today I will participate in my parish’s liturgy with deep fervor and an attitude of prayer and
interior silence. I will try to bring my friends with me to the Mass.
I will make a special effort to fill my thoughts, words, and actions with the spirit of charity.
Day 46: Saturday of Holy Week
When a mother loses her little boy in an accident, there is no telling the grief that possesses her.
It is so hard to let go of that little life that once clung so to hers. She remembers him at every
age of his life. She goes back over the footsteps of his life and hers, the words he spoke, the
glances, the tears, the spankings, the embraces, the good night kisses, the prayers spoken
together, the birthday parties, the photographs, the first time flying a kite. One memory after
another, and she cannot stop the tears. It is impossible to erase the life of a child from a
mother’s heart. There are some bonds that can never be broken, and this is one of them.
How much more for Mary, whose entire soul was surrendered to Jesus as the supreme love of
her life! Her Son was also her Lord and Master, her King and her Spouse. She loved him with a
chaste and all-consuming love that polarized her entire being. He was her treasure, and when
he died, her heart followed her treasure to the end.
Pieta. How perfectly Michelangelo’s sculpture captured this moment of silent acceptance of
God’s will, in a sorrow too deep for tears, one hand cradling his body, the other extended as if to
say, “Fiat, Father. This too, I accept”. She did not fight against what had happened. She did not
hate those who did it. She forgave. Not once or twice, but seventy times seven, which is to say
What Jesus taught his disciples, Mary practiced. Her forgiveness was seventy times seven
because the number of all humanity’s sins was impossible to count. It was forgiveness seventy
times seven because the memory of his life and death returned to her mind over and over again
during the course of that night and day, and every time a memory came, a new act of
forgiveness was needed. It was seventy times seven because the seven sorrows that pierced her
heart called forth an unending act of forgiveness that transformed her pain into mercy. On that
day, the Queen of Mercy was born alongside the Queen of Martyrs.
As she held the body of her Son in her arms, what did Mary remember? We can only wonder at
what filled her mind and heart.
We know that Mary was a woman of memory and of pondering, and that she turned the
mysteries of God over and over inside her heart. Her memories were not sterile but fruitful,
because they were memories of a living mystery, the life of Jesus. From the living memory of
Mary, we have received the living memory of the Church, passed on in Scripture and in
Tradition. Who knows how many details in the Gospel or in the apostles’ preaching came from
Mary’s contemplative memory? Surely the apostles asked her to shed light on some of Jesus’
more difficult sayings; they must have consulted with her, since she was the closest one they
had to the Master himself. Tradition says that St. Luke was very close to her, and St. John must
have spent long evenings with her after taking her into his house as his own mother in
obedience to Jesus’ last request. “Son, behold your mother” (Jn. 19:27).
Mary was deeply imbued not only with everything Jesus said and taught, but also with the
ancient Scriptures. We know this because of her Magnificat, spontaneously spoken under an
impulse of joyful praise. Mary was a true daughter of King David the Psalmist, and her
Magnificat is a Psalm in its own right—but a peculiar kind of Psalm. In fact, it is a kind of
Scriptural tapestry weaving together verses from many Old Testament texts: 1 Samuel, 2
Samuel, 2 Kings, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Job, Sirach, Genesis, Micah, Isaiah, and at least ten
different Davidic psalms.
Spontaneous speech reveals a person’s heart, as Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart,
the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45). If the Magnificat was Mary’s spontaneous outflow of praise, then
her heart was habitually full of the Word of God. What Jesus said of the instructed scribe can be
applied to her: “Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head
of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt. 13:52). Mary was
this scribe, not because she wrote anything, but because her heart was full of the Old and the
New Testament. She read, pondered, understood, and prayed over the Word of God, and the
Church is enriched by this living memory because it engenders a deeper faith in the Son of God.
So, even though Mary never wrote a Gospel, her influence is surely there in a quiet, discreet,
hidden way, and her contemplative memory of Jesus’ mysteries lives on in the rosary, which
gathers together the four main stages of Jesus’ life: his childhood (joyful mysteries), his public
ministry (luminous mysteries), his passion (sorrowful mysteries), and his triumph (glorious
mysteries). The rosary is a way of entering into Mary’s memory and seeing through her eyes. To
pray the rosary is to look at Jesus’ face through Mary’s heart.
Everything begins in history, and there was a time when these mysteries were lived under a
changing sky, while day failed and darkness came on. Time did not stop for the Passion. It did
not even stop for Mary’s grief. The clouds kept moving across the sky while they lowered his
body into her arms and the disciples left her alone with him for a few precious minutes, to bid
him a final farewell as only a mother can do.
What thoughts rose up in her heart in that brief span of time? Did the five joyful mysteries fill
her with bittersweet sadness?
Did she remember the moment of the Annunciation when the angel had first told her about him,
in the words of promise: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord
God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob
forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33). Words spoken in a spring
garden, by an angel to a girl. Now she was a woman. The scene was so different now. His hands
were blackened with blood. She touched the gaping hole in his hand, blackened with violence.
She remembered how the soldiers had pulled his arm and dislocated his shoulder to fit the
hand over the proper place for nailing. The throne of David his father on this earth had taken
the form of a bloody cross. She did not question or doubt. Her heart was capable of enduring
the agony of this contradiction because her faith was stronger. The kingdom is coming. The
promise has yet to be fulfilled. I believe. “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she thought again. “This
was your will. I accept again. May it be done to me according to your word” (cf. Lk. 1:38).
Or maybe Mary remembered the Visitation to Elizabeth, and the long trip by herself when she
was first pregnant with Jesus. What a special voyage into the hill country with her God in her
womb! She thought back to those days when he was still her secret, when those silent
conversations between mother and unborn child were unknown to the rest of the world. John
the Baptist had recognized his presence within her, and so had Elizabeth. The baby had jumped;
the mother had prophesied. Elizabeth had said, “Blessed are you who believed that what was
spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45). Yes, she had believed when the reality
had not yet come to light. And now that the crucifixion had been fulfilled, she still believed.
Death will not have the final word. I believe. I accept.
Or did she remember the miraculous birth in Bethlehem, and how after nine months of interior
conversation, they looked into each other’s eyes for the first time on a winter’s night? The cave
was poor and cold, and his little head had nestled into her neck. She was astonished at how her
God was a baby in her arms, how when he slept, he melted into her, so pliant and soft, so
vulnerable. His little hands gripped her hair and the edge of her veil and his breathing was quiet
and sweet. She remembered the visit of the shepherds, and how they had told her the message
given them by the angels: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you, who is
Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling
clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk. 2:11-12). She had pondered this message, storing it up in
her heart. And then came the Magi from the East with their gifts. They had followed a star and a
prophecy: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel” (Mt. 2:6). Their wisdom
and their gifts they laid at her Son’s feet. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. She remembered this
as she looked at his scourged body, encrusted with dried blood and stiff with death. Soon it
would be time to bury the body with the ritual spices; myrrh would be one of them. The women
planned to wash every wound and cover it with spices. It would take a long time, much longer
than the time that remained for them before nightfall on Calvary’s hill. But Mary was thinking, It
will not be necessary. He will rise again as the Scriptures say. No spices would touch his body;
only the myrrh of her own tears, falling over his open wounds.
Maybe she remembered the Presentation, when she and Joseph had brought the child up to the
Temple for the ritual of ransoming back the life of the firstborn son. She had exchanged two
turtledoves for the life of the Son of God. Two doves! He was her Isaac, and the sacrifice was not
spared her. The two doves were his heart and hers. He was sacrificed in body and soul upon the
altar, and the lance had plunged deep into his heart as he lay on the cross. She was sacrificed in
spirit, her heart pierced to the depths with the same sword of sorrow, just as the aged Simeon
had foretold that day: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to
be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of
many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35). His sacrifice had been her sacrifice too.
She looked at his pierced side, still wet with the blood and water that had flowed out. It was an
image of her heart. All her joy had poured out with his life on the cross. But she still believed. He
will be given back to me. I believe in the promises. He will be brought to life again as he said, and I
will be brought to life with him and my joy will be complete. For he told us, “Amen, amen, I say to
you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will
become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but
when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a
child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and
your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not
question me about anything” (Jn. 16:20-23).
And did Mary also remember the day when she had lost Jesus for the first time in the Temple,
how she and Joseph had searched frantically until they found him in his Father’s house? After
three days of anxious searching, they found him sitting among the teachers. He was twelve. In
answer to her humble reproach, he said, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that
I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49). So often he had pushed her back, teaching her that
his Father’s mission came first in his heart, that her motherly affection must never stand in the
way of God’s will. Now she understood why. No mother would have wanted to lose her son in
this way. He had been lost in the hands of the Sanhedrin, Herod, Pilate, the soldiers, and the
people. And now she found him again. This had been his Father’s business: a death of expiation
at the hands of those who hated him without cause. She remembered how his last words from
the cross had been, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46). And he gave up
his spirit. His Father’s business had been accomplished to the full. She bent over his face and
closed his eyes. I lost you in the Temple for three days, and then I found you. I believe that after
the third day, you will rise again. I will not go searching for you at the tomb because I know I must
not seek the living among the dead. This time, it will not be I who search for you, my Son. It is you
who will come looking for me, for I will be your Temple and your Father’s house. I accept your
mission, my Son. I am weeping, but I accept and I believe.
Time does not stop for grief, so after some minutes the disciples came and respectfully asked
Mary to allow them to take the body of Jesus away. They laid him in the tomb, borrowed from
Joseph of Arimathea, and rolled a great stone to the entrance while Mary watched. Then they
turned and walked back into the city to the Upper Room. On their way, Mary saw the great
walls of the Temple rising up white in the darkness. Such magnificent stones—and yet, the veil
of the Holy of Holies had already been ripped in two. She knew that the new Temple would be
the Church, and that after such a painful childbirth, she was now the Mother of the Church.
And perhaps as she walked, she remembered the words of Psalm 45.
“Listen, my daughter, and understand;
pay me careful heed.
Forget your people and your father’s house,
that the king might desire your beauty.
He is your lord;
honor him, daughter of Tyre.
Then the richest of the people
will seek your favor with gifts.
The throne of your fathers your sons will have;
you shall make them princes through all the land.
I will make your name renowned through all generations;
thus nations shall praise you forever” (Ps. 45: 11-13, 17-18).
Who can measure the heroism of Mary? And she is my mother: the mother of my soul who
wishes to bring me to Jesus. Do I ever call upon her? Do I accompany her in my rosary? Do I
remember her as she remembers me? Today is the right time to start.
Without the freely given assent of Mary, God cannot become man. Certainly, this “Yes” Mary says is
wholly by grace. No human being can set in motion the process of salvation by his own powers
alone, but his Yes is wrapped around and supported by that divine love which comes first and
before all else and that already surrounds man even before he is born. “All is grace.” Yet grace does
not remove freedom; rather, it brings it into being.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life
Today I will accompany Mary all day, praying my rosary as a way of being with her. I will try
to cultivate an attitude of silence today in the midst of my ordinary occupations.
Today I will avoid noisy or distracting recreations as a sacrifice for Mary. I will not go out
and party on this night when she is grieving. Instead, I will prepare for the Vigil Mass.
Day 47: Easter Sunday
Morning. Pre-dawn darkness. Mary Madgalene couldn’t sleep. She had been anxiously awaiting
the end of the night and the obligatory Sabbath rest because she was yearning to go back to the
tomb again. It was not that she expected to see anything there. She was just driven by a blind
need to be close to him again, even if it was just his dead body on the other side of the sealed
But upon arrival, she was surprised to find the stone removed from the tomb. Empty! She ran
back to the Upper Room and told Simon Peter and John, “They have taken the Lord from the
tomb, and we don’t know where they put him!” (Jn. 20:2). The two men exchange glances. Is she
crazy? Should we believe her? John urges Peter to come and see, so together they run to the
tomb, John leading the way. Upon arrival, John waits for Peter. He is the rock; it is fitting that he
enter first. Peter enters and sees the burial cloths there with the head cloth rolled up in a
separate place. John entered after, saw the cloths, and believed: he has risen! The two men
exchange glances again and return home. They do not linger at the empty tomb.
But Mary Magdalene does. She had run back with the two disciples, watched them enter the
tomb, and anxiously questioned them about what they saw. Their faces are reserved; they do
not know. He is not there, either dead or alive. As they walk back to the city, their heads are
lowered and their steps are heavy. John cherishes the faith that Jesus is risen, but Peter is not so
quick to believe. He has been so serious lately, so withdrawn. His betrayal is still weighing on
him. John knows that Peter is struggling with his heavy conscience, and he respectfully gives
him the silence and the space he needs. They walk back without speaking to each other. It is
enough to be together.
Meanwhile, the Magdalene is like a crazy woman. She cannot make up her mind about what to
do. She is like the woman in the Song of Songs who goes about the city seeking the one her
heart loves: “On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves—I sought him but I did not
find him. I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek Him whom
my heart loves. I sought him but I did not find him” (Songs 3:1-2). She is seeking him, but she
doesn’t know where to look. There is the empty tomb and he is not there.
And so Mary Magdalene does what any reasonable woman would do under the circumstances.
She sits on a rock and weeps.
But even as she weeps, something inside her tells her to look again in the empty tomb, just to be
sure he isn’t there. Perhaps Peter and John missed something.
And to her surprise, she sees two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the
feet of where the body of Jesus had been. They look at her and ask, “Woman, why are you
weeping?” She doesn’t even stop to think that these are angels. She simply answers from her
broken heart: “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they laid him” (cf. Jn. 20: 12-
13). She doesn’t ask, “Who are you and what are you doing there in his tomb?” She is too
distraught to be thinking straight.
And so she turns around and sees a man standing behind her. She does not recognize him. He
asks her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Same question. If she were in full possession of her
senses, she might have wondered, why do they always have to ask me why I’m crying? Isn’t it self-
evident? He seems friendly enough. “Whom are you looking for?” (cf. Jn. 20:15) The trace of a
smile flickers around his lips, but she doesn’t pick up on it. She’s too busy crying.
Without even questioning who he is and what he is doing there, she answers, “Sir,” (one must
always be polite to gardeners) “if you carried him away” (as gardeners usually do with dead
bodies) “tell me where you laid him” (as if a grave-robbing gardener would confess to a
weeping woman!) “and I will take him” (all by herself, carrying a 175 pound body… to where?).
She is definitely not thinking straight.
Jesus’ little smirk broadens into a smile. His eyes are alive with laughter. “Mary!” he says. She
turns and catches sight of him whom her heart loves. It is he! He is alive, standing in front of
her, and laughing at her! She cries out “Rabbouni! – Teacher!” and falls at his feet, gripping his
knees for dear life. Never leave me again! Never die again! I will never let you leave me! She is
gripping him so tightly that Jesus couldn’t move even if he wanted to. Now he is positively
laughing out loud, “Mary, stop holding onto me! I still have to ascend to the Father” (cf. 20: 15-
17). She loosens her grip a tiny bit and he unfastens her vise-like arms from his legs. “Now
Mary,” he says, “you have a mission. I want you to go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going
to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (Jn. 20:17). She looks up at him,
delirious with joy. It’s obvious that she didn’t hear a word he said. “Did you get that, Mary?” She
heaves a great sigh of contentment and grips him even more tightly. Women! he thinks. Yet it’s
her very tenacity and determination that will make her the apostle to the apostles. Once a
passionate woman grasps what her beloved expects of her and once she sees her mission, wild
horses couldn’t drag her away from fulfilling it. If it’s for Jesus, she’ll live and die for that
mission. She’ll walk through fire for him. She might complain a lot, cling a lot, and voice her own
opinion too much, but in the end she’ll do it. She’ll be the last one standing in the mission field,
the last one to go home after it’s all over, the last one to turn out the lights.
She’ll be the last one because she is the first one. She loves the most and she has found the way
to express her love: not with tears, not with words, but with actions. She channels her love to
the mission of saving souls and bringing the brethren to Jesus. She fulfills this mission with all
the intensity of her heart—driven by the memory of her past sins and the need to make
reparation, and also driven by the deep experience of having been loved and forgiven by Jesus
Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles. They think she’s crazy, but she’s right. She’s onto
something. She knows that if we are going to follow Christ, it has to be with this passionate
surrender of “Ask me anything and I’ll do it because I’m madly in love with you. Here is my
whole life on a platter. I’m yours and I don’t want to have any rights. My only right is to love
Thank God for Mary Magdalene. She’s a bit of a mess, still a walking disaster, sometimes too
loud and too brash, but there is an intensity inside her that springs from true love. And it is this
love that makes her an apostle: not someone who just receives love for herself, but someone
who brings that love to others, and who seeks to give Jesus Christ to her family and friends,
even though they laugh at her and think she’s a nut. She’d rather be a certified nut who takes
risks because she truly loves Christ than a “normal” person who is afraid to buck the tide. Mary
Magdalene will buck the tide singlehandedly. She’s way past caring what others think. Getting
seven demons cast out of her probably had something to do with that. Your reputation couldn’t
get much worse after a public exorcism; after that, it’s all uphill.
One day, Mary Magdalene will arrive to heaven for The Resurrection, Part II. And there, she will
embrace Jesus in a garden much nicer than that old cemetery, and he will not tell her to stop
clinging to him. He will embrace her back and say, “Welcome, good and faithful servant, into my
kingdom. All that I have is yours, because all that you had was mine. Come and enter into your
Master’s joy—come and see the place I have prepared for you!”
One day we too will enter into heaven. Christ wants to prepare a place for us, too… but first we
must prepare a place for him in our hearts and in our lives. Is it the first place? A distant corner
where he won’t cause too much trouble? A side room that we enter only occasionally? Is Christ
number 1 or is he number 38?
Ask him to show you how much his heart loves you and how much he wants to be number 1 for
you. Ask him in your prayer by opening up your heart to him.
God calls us to pray, not as some kind of a dry mental exercise, but as an opening of the heart.
You have the key to your own heart. You know very well that you can open it like a beautiful
flower with words and attitudes of deep trust and childlike affection, or you can keep it tightly
closed. Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” is about this supreme
sovereignty of the soul; as she says, the soul can choose to keep her doors shut even if a prince
kneels on her doorstep.
But if we can close our door to a prince, we can also open it to a pauper. And Jesus, who knows
that love wins by attraction and not by force, often comes to us in weakness in order to show us
the true face of the Father, full of kindness, humility, and peace. He makes himself little to win
our love. Will you give me a chance? Will you let me try? See, I’m not here to hurt you. I am the
one who loves you the most.
In prayer, we can pour out that perfumed ointment of our affection for him. Remember what
the saints say about prayer: it is an act of love, of opening, of surrender, of listening, of gazing. It
is not so much a matter of thinking, although it is certainly no crime to think. It’s about being
with the Friend who loves us.
Sometimes, just being there is the best way to start. And as we try to “be there” for Christ, we
also have to remember that he is always there for us. He knows what we need before we ask; he
knows us to the depths of our being because we are always in his gaze. There is never a
moment when Christ doesn’t see us; he’ll never say, “Oops! Wait—what? Sorry, I blanked out
for a minute.” He’s not absent minded, and he certainly isn’t camped out on some distant
quasar. He’s closer to us than we are to ourselves. He lives within us. He is holding us in the cup
of his hands like a lovely secret that the Trinity beholds with joy.
So how do you pray? It’s simple. Prayer is not some arcane art that you have to learn from a
mysterious Eastern guru who will make you drink teas and practice inhaling and exhaling. It’s
much simpler and more accessible than that.
What do you do when you converse with a friend? You start with your reality. You tell them
how your day went, what you did, what went wrong. You share your joys and heartaches, you
ask for help and advice. You thank them for helping you in the past and you don’t forget to tell
them how wonderful they are and how much you love them. You ask forgiveness when you’ve
hurt them, but with great trust, because you know that they won’t throw it back in your face or
delay giving you their forgiveness.
Is it so hard to talk to Christ? The first conversations with Christ can be like this: so simple, so
easy, just talking heart to heart… and then listening.
It’s not that Christ doesn’t already know everything you’re going to tell him. He knows very
well. But he loves to hear it from you anyway, because that intimate conversation knits your
hearts together more and more each time.
Of course, there are methods for prayer. It helps to choose a Gospel passage where you can look
at Christ and see him acting, talk to him about it, and draw practical conclusions from it. You
watch him, listen to him, converse with him, and then imitate him.
But don’t get too complicated. Always go back to the simplicity of a child’s conversation with
the one she knows loves her so much. Always feel free just to be with him, without having to
pile up too many words. He already knows everything; he is just waiting for that gaze of faith,
trust, and love. In silence and in peace, just open your heart and place it in his hands. It belongs
to him anyway.
And now you have reached your destination: the arms of Jesus Christ, who loves you and has
won your soul for heaven through his suffering, death, and resurrection. Happy Easter!
In the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love
of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presencein our daily lives. He
has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not
demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us
see and experience his love, and since he has "loved us first", love can also blossom as a response
Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est
Today I will congratulate Jesus on his Resurrection and share the joy of his victory with
everyone I meet by my smile and my cheerful attitude.
Today I will give the best of myself to my family and friends!
These meditations were prepared by the Regnum Christi consecrated women.
We hope they helped you to pray.
Per Regnum Christi Ad Gloriam Dei